Photo courtesy of New York Jets

On Monday, the Carolina Panthers traded a 2021 sixth-round pick and two 2022 picks to the New York Jets for Sam Darnold.

A former first-team All-Pac-12 performer at USC, Darnold gets a fresh start in a new offense and another chance to prove he is a franchise quarterback.

Details

This trade is relatively low risk for the Panthers. The Jets drafted Darnold third overall in 2018. The Panthers lose only a sixth-round pick (226th overall) in this draft and their second- and fourth-round picks in 2022. If Darnold has a breakout season and leads the Panthers to the playoffs, the 2022 picks will be much later than the Jets’ front office is expecting.

Immediately following the trade, the Panthers exercised the fifth-year option on Darnold’s rookie contract. He will make just $4.75 million in 2021, but he is set to earn nearly $18.9 million in 2022, which is a mid-level contract for a starting NFL quarterback.

Analysis

On day one, Darnold is a more dynamic quarterback than Teddy Bridgewater with a much higher ceiling. At 23, he is younger than Joe Burrow, the No. 1 overall pick in 2020. Darnold is only slightly older than Mac Jones, a prospective first-round pick.

Darnold, however, has three years of NFL experience. He should improve in Joe Brady’s quarterback-friendly offense, with more weapons and better protection than he ever had in New York.

Bridgewater’s future in Carolina is waning. The Panthers will most likely look to trade him for draft picks as soon as possible.

The interest in Bridgewater is probably minimal around the league; however, reports have shown that the San Francisco 49ers are interested. It should only take a late pick to get Bridgewater.

This move makes quarterback less of a need for the Panthers; however, it won’t rule out the selection of one in the draft.

“This doesn’t take us out of anything in the draft,” Carolina general manager Scott Fitterer said. “It doesn’t take us out of taking a quarterback, it doesn’t take us out of taking any position. What we wanted to do going into this draft, through free agency, through this trade with Sam, was to just get rid of all the needs we have.”

The Panthers are set to let the draft come to them and select the best player available at No. 8 overall. The Panthers may even trade back to accumulate picks. Knowing Fitterer’s desire to meet all needs before the draft, the Panthers may not be finished in free agency.

The Panthers’ biggest hole at the moment is at cornerback. Donte Jackson is by far the best cornerback on the team right now. Unless he made many offseason improvements, Troy Pride Jr. should not be a starter in his second season as a pro.

A few viable cornerbacks remain on the open market, including A.J. Bouye, Casey Heyward, and Richard Sherman. Carolina addressed a major need through acquiring Darnold, but is far from finished building this team.