The Carolina Panthers are officially moving on from quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
The team traded Bridgewater to the Denver Broncos in exchange for a sixth-round pick. The Panthers now have pick No. 191 in this year’s draft and eight total selections. The team is scheduled to pick three times in the sixth round.
Bridgewater, 28, spent just one season with the Panthers after signing a three-year, $63 million deal last offseason that initially allowed for the team to get out of the contract easily before Year 3.
The deal required a restructuring of Bridgewater’s contract. The Panthers will be paying Bridgewater $7 million this year, with the Broncos paying him the remaining $3 million. Trading Bridgewater saves the Panthers $6 million in cap space this year and $26 million next year. He will account for $17 million in dead cap in 2021 and none in 2022. He will earn $31 million from the Panthers for 15 games played.
“Acquiring Teddy Bridgewater adds competition, experience and a strong veteran presence to our quarterback room,” Broncos general manager George Paton said in a statement. “He’s a talented player and leader who’s had success in this league in a number of different situations. Being familiar with Teddy from Minnesota, he’s going to compete and do everything he can to help us win.”
The move became expected when the Panthers traded with the New York Jets for quarterback Sam Darnold in early April. In exchange for Darnold, who will be under contract for two years if the team picks up his fifth-year option, Carolina gave up a 2021 sixth-round pick and 2022 second- and fourth-round picks. The Panthers believe in the 23-year old’s potential in coordinator Joe Brady’s offense, and he will be assisted by some of the pieces Bridgewater did not have around him.
The team confirmed that Bridgewater’s representation had been given permission to seek a trade following the acquisition of Darnold.
The Panthers quarterback room now has Darnold, P.J. Walker, Will Grier and Tommy Stevens heading into the draft. The decision to move on from Bridgewater will not impact what the team does in the draft concerning the quarterback position, as it was more of a matter of time before the team moved on from the quarterback. The Panthers did gain a sixth-round pick with the deal, after giving one away in the Darnold trade.
Drafting Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields in the first round of the draft remains a possibility and is not impacted by the trade. Whether or not he is available depends on how the first round of the draft falls ahead of their pick. The team is looking to get the quarterback position right, as seen in cutting ties with Bridgewater, which means adding to the position is still on the table.
This is the second time Bridgewater has been traded in favor of Darnold. Bridgewater was a Jet when Darnold was drafted third overall in 2018. Prior to the start of the season, Bridgewater was traded to the New Orleans Saints to be Drew Brees’ backup, while Darnold started in New York the next three years.
Panthers owner David Tepper was not happy with the results on the field from Bridgewater, especially in late-game situations. The team went 0-8 with the ball in the offense’s hands in potential game-winning or game-tying situations at the end of the fourth quarter.
“It’s a question of who can be that guy that can help you win. That’s the most important position on the field,” Tepper said in December, the first indication that the team would be moving on from the quarterback. “Unless you have that guy for sure that gets you to playoffs and Super Bowls, you have to keep reevaluating that because that’s the only thing that matters is Super Bowls. And until you have that guy, you’re evaluating, evaluating, evaluating every year.”
In his one season in Carolina, Bridgewater largely performed as should have been expected. He completed 69.1% of his passes for 3,733 yards, 15 touchdowns, 11 interceptions and was sacked 31 times behind an inconsistent offensive line. He also rushed 53 times and had five rushing touchdowns. Inconsistency in the red zone was also an issue. He was without Christian McCaffrey for 13 games due to injury and starting left tackle Russell Okung for nine games.
The former Vikings’ first-round pick in 2014 has bounced from team to team over the last several years of his career, now landing on his third team in as many seasons. The Panthers were his latest chance at a starting role after suffering a devastating injury during training camp in Minnesota caused him to miss about two seasons (2016-17).