After a 5-11 season, the Carolina Panthers’ front office is reportedly weighing their options under center. They were in the mix for the Matthew Stafford sweepstakes, offering up Teddy Bridgewater as well as 1st and 5th round picks to the Lions. While Stafford was moved to Los Angeles to play with the Rams, the fact that they tried to make a move at quarterback is very telling.
Despite winning the Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award in 2020, Bridgewater struggled to finish games this year, bringing in just 4 wins in 15 starts. Throwing just 15 touchdowns to 11 interceptions certainly didn’t ingratiate him to the coaching staff either, and he was benched in favor of PJ Walker in Week 17 to end the season.
This obviously raised questions about his status moving forward with the Panthers, and if they are going in another direction, it will likely have to come via trade. Teddy was signed to a 3-year, $63 Million deal last year, and despite a potential out in 2022 he would leave them with a $20 Million Cap hit in 2021 if cut.
This means that Carolina’s only real options are to either: try to find a trade partner, or stick with him in 2021 while making another acquisition at QB.
Quarterback Room Implications
Now, if they make a move and find a new starter I believe this would actually entrench PJ Walker on this roster. Matt Rhule clearly holds over a level of trust with him from their days together at Temple, and he worked his way from fringe QB3 to veteran backup on this roster over the course of the year.
He won his first ever NFL start in Week 11, and though he threw 3 picks in relief of Bridgewater in the season finale trying to dig Carolina out of a 7-33 hole in Week 17, he may be best positioned to take the backup role again in the second year of his contract.
He is on the hook for just $880,000 according to spotrac.com, and this is a small price for a coach to pay for a veteran quarterback who knows his system (perhaps better than anyone else in the NFL).
While I would like to think that PJ could be in line to take over the starting job here, it doesn’t seem likely at this point regardless of how things fall in the offseason. However, unless the Panthers go out and spend even more money at QB for a high-end veteran backup like Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jacoby Brissett or Tyrod Taylor, I feel safe penciling him in as QB2 next year.
This current regime has no ties to 2019 4th Round Pick Will Grier, and he hasn’t done enough to edge out Walker as the backup. They also rookie Tommy Stevens on the roster, but he appears to be more of a practice squad option with utility upside at this point in his career.
It does seem likely that the Panthers will take a shot at QB somewhere in the 2021 draft, and even if they land a 1st-rounder they will need a veteran backup in the room.
Of all the possible scenarios for the Panthers this offseason it feels very likely that PJ Walker has cemented himself with the team. If the overall instability under center continues into the 2021 season, he could very well get another crack at the starting lineup, and Matt Rhule seems eager to put him on the field.
He’s already proven that XFL talent translates to the NFL with a win in his first start this year, and we hope he can continue to make his football dreams come true in Carolina.
Even if he doesn’t catch on next year, the XFL will be back in 2022 and the Roughnecks would love to have him back without a doubt.
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