Panthers can’t let Teddy Bridgewater’s contract prevent them from upgrading at QB

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Tim Weaver
·4 min read
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Just as pressure compounds on a quarterback, mistakes can pile up on NFL teams. Carolina Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer has inherited a difficult situation from his predecessor. Marty Hurney’s series of questionable decisions at QB in 2020 likely was a large factor in his getting fired and replaced by Fitterer. Charting a path forward won’t be easy. The worst thing Fitterer can do is allow Hurney’s blunders to drag him down, especially when it comes to improving at quarterback.

To his credit, the Panthers are off to a good start as they’ve been aggressively seeking an upgrade at QB via trade. Carolina came very close to dealing for Matt Stafford and has also been reported to be interested in “most of” the veteran quarterback trade talks, including Deshaun Watson of the Texans and Sam Darnold of the Jets.

In an ideal world, the Panthers would find a team willing to take on Teddy Bridgewater in any QB deal. Apparently they tried to package him along with the No. 8 overall pick and a fifth-rounder to Detroit. It says a lot that the Lions chose to take on Jared Goff and his contract instead, to say nothing of the Rams’ likely low first-round picks compared to a top-10 choice that the Panthers trade would have gotten them.

Bridgewater had his moments in 2020 and may yet become a franchise QB. However, the trouble is that there just aren’t many teams who would consider him a step up from their current starters. In fact, that list might only include the Giants, Broncos and Bears – who may be the only team in the league who would actually benefit from a Carson Wentz trade.

In any case, Drew Lock and Daniel Jones are younger and it would make little sense to replace either one of them with Teddy. Meanwhile, Chicago seems pretty intent on getting Wentz. Bridgewater had a better year and his basement is higher, but he just can’t match Wentz’s upside.

Other teams who have been mentioned as possible Bridgewater trade partners are the Vikings and Saints, both teams he’s been with in the past. Minnesota makes no sense as long as they’re keeping Kirk Cousins – and the only reason they’d swap him is if they could get a QB like Deshaun Watson, Russell Wilson or Dak Prescott.

New Orleans is a little more interesting given Drew Brees’ imminent retirement. Bridgewater is a better passer than Taysom Hill, but the Saints also have Jameis Winston under contract for a few more weeks and extending him would be the far superior alternative to dealing for Bridgewater. In any case, New Orleans is already way over the salary cap and can’t afford to take on Teddy’s cap-hits.

Fitterer may not like it, but it’s unlikely any team will take on Bridgewater at this point in his career thanks to his bridge-to-nowhere type contract. That’s okay as long as it doesn’t prevent him from getting a new potential QB1.

Packaging Teddy is a good idea in theory. Realistically, Carolina may be forced to keep him and pay his near-$23 million cap number this year. That’s not the end of the world, though. For one thing, Bridgewater already has a full season of experience with Carolina’s receivers – which is more than one can say for all but one other quarterback in the NFL. With another offseason to build chemistry with D.J. Moore and his other weapons, Bridgewater might have a much better 2021 season if he winds up starting.

More likely, Teddy would be backing up a rookie like Justin Fields or Trey Lance. He might fill the same role if they trade for a veteran like Sam Darnold or Gardner Minshew, as well. Bridgewater wasn’t a great starter in 2020. However, he’s still arguably the best backup in the league assuming Winston will be QB1 for the Saints or another team.

Whatever the Panthers decide to do with Bridgewater, they can’t let his contract prevent them from drafting a top QB prospect or from trading for a different veteran with a significantly higher ceiling.

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