If I was a Carolina Panthers fan right now, I would be pretty depressed right now. On one hand, I am happy that QB Deshaun Watson did not choose to play for the Panthers this season on his no-trade clause, but on the other hand, there is growing fear that QB Sam Darnold will be the starting quarterback when the 2022 regular season kicks off in September.
You can blame coach Matt Rhule, you can blame GM Scott Fitterer, and you can even blame a combination of Rhule, Fitterer, and owner David Tepper for this mishap. Either way, there are limited options for the Panthers to upgrade at the QB position before the season begins.
The Carolina Panthers have been rumored for several quarterbacks, rather they draft a quarterback this year or wait until the following year. Knowing the fan base of the Panthers, due to the obsession with trying to trade for Deshaun Watson, this has turned the Carolina Panthers into the modern terminology of a desperate girl/boyfriend looking for a relationship.
Fear not, Carolina fans, I have a few options that either you will agree or disagree with me on. Here are the Quarterback options for the Carolina Panthers: Post Deshaun Watson Chase.
Option #1: Re-Sign Cam Newton and Draft Malik Willis with the 6th Pick
There have been rumors that the front office has spoken with long-time QB Cam Newton about a possible return to Carolina in 2022. This possible move brings up an interesting idea, one for which the fanbase would be all in.
The Panthers would re-sign Cam Newton to be their starter on a one-year or two-year contract and draft Liberty’s Malik Willis with the no. 6 pick in this year’s NFL Draft.
For experts, this move makes perfect sense. Malik Willis attended Westlake High School in Atlanta until his senior season, the same school Cam Newton attended. For the first two seasons of his collegiate career, Willis attended Auburn University before attending Liberty University; Cam Newton played at Auburn in 2010.
The Panthers could draft Willis as the heir apparent to Cam, and Newton could be a mentor to Malik in the early stages of his NFL career.
Option #2: Consider Acquiring Baker Mayfield or Jimmy Garoppolo
So, Carolina may not convince Cam Newton to return to Charlotte to play at least one more season for them. Personally, if I had to work with a different offensive coordinator and the same head coach this season, I wouldn’t come back either.
If Carolina could not convince Cam to return, then they would have to do something drastic just to have any chance of competing in the NFC South. There are two quarterbacks that have been mentioned in the news as possible trade options for Carolina: Baker Mayfield and Jimmy Garoppolo.
Baker Mayfield is still currently with the Cleveland Browns but due to the massive trade to acquire Deshaun Watson, Mayfield is on the outside looking in. Mayfield and the Panthers have mutual disinterest in trading but if Baker would be released by Cleveland, then Carolina would not be bound by losing trade capital or young defensive talent, and they can see if Mayfield deserves another chance.
As for Jimmy G, the two main obstacles here are the lack of tradeable assets and Garoppolo’s shoulder surgery. In the case of Matt Rhule, if he wants to keep his job in terms of this season, he will try to consider talking with San Francisco or wait until Mayfield is a free agent to get a “win now” option.
Option #3: Sign Colin Kaepernick or draft a QB to compete with Darnold
Colin Kaepernick has made news in the past few weeks, working out with current NFL QBs and WRs to try and return to the league that once “blackballed” him due to his beliefs. With Kaep’s name in the news, this is the best time for a quarterback-needy team to give him at least a workout to see if he is capable to be back. One of the teams that should give a look to Kaepernick should be the Carolina Panthers.
If the Panthers feel like Kaepernick is not an “upgrade” over Sam Darnold, which would make sense in their warped mindset, they could decide to draft someone like Kenny Pickett, Matt Corral or Sam Howell.
After all, the Panthers brass was seen at Pickett’s and Malik Willis’ pro days, so it makes sense they would try to use their only Day 1 pick on a QB.
Unfortunately, due to the possibility that Sam Darnold could struggle as he has throughout his young career, there’s pressure on Matt Rhule and the Panthers’ coaching staff to start their rookie quarterback way ahead of schedule, which would make the team struggle even more than they already do.
Option #4: Don’t make any moves and tank for a high draft pick
If you ask any Panthers fan on social media, this is their least favorite option. The Panthers figure out that there are no competent quarterbacks that want to play for them, they couldn’t find a trade partner for Sam Darnold or Christian McCaffery, and they couldn’t convince Cam Newton to return.
So, you find yourself in a situation where you played yourself and have to start a season with a quarterback who was in the news for seeing ghosts rather than for his play on the field.
Fear not Carolina, with this option you can use the no. 6 pick on an offensive lineman and hope that Darnold’s regresses even more to the point that the Panthers will be one of the worst teams in the NFL next season. There are a few first-round prospects that may be in the conversation next season: Alabama’s Bryce Young and Ohio State’s CJ Stroud.
Maybe even Coastal Carolina’s Grayson McCall might be available if he has a solid season this upcoming season. It’s sad at this point but you must think about how bad the Panthers have fallen off to the point where tanking would seem reasonable at this point.