Now What for Teddy Bridgewater?
Another rim-rocking trade involving an NFL quarterback rattled the NFL on Monday.
Sam Darnold is headed to the Carolina Panthers in exchange for a 2021 6th-Round pick plus 2nd and 4th-Round picks in 2022 to the New York Jets. Carolina is expected to engage Darnold’s $18 million fifth-year option for 2022, so the USC alumnus has two seasons to prove that he is the guy in North Carolina.
The Panthers tried out Teddy Bridgewater as the guy in 2020, and the result was sour. After losing halfback Christian McCaffrey to injury, Carolina bumbled to a pungent 5-11 record. Bridgewater accounted for 15 touchdowns – in 15 games. Unfortunately for the former Minnesota Vikings quarterback, that will not do the trick in a modern pass-happy league.
Therefore, some sort of transaction awaits the Lousiville alumnus. He will not start for the Panthers in 2021. That gig now firmly belongs to Darnold.
So, what’s next for Bridgewater?
The Paton Plan
The quick temptation on Bridgewater’s status is to formulate a “cut him” hypothesis. That is feasible, but it doesn’t make good business sense. Right now in early April, a release of Bridgewater mandates the Panthers carrying a $20 million dead cap hit in 2021. If general manager Scott Fitterer waited until after June 1st, Bridgewater could be dumped for $15 million worth of dead cap hit.
That means that Bridgewater probably won’t be outright released.
The most sensible trade target is the Denver Broncos. General Manager George Paton has ties to Bridgewater from his Vikings days. He was the second in command for front-office leadership when Minnesota pulled Bridgewater out of the 2014 NFL Draft.
And, Drew Lock had an underwhelming 2020 campaign. It is unclear if Paton is fully committed to Lock for 2021 and beyond. If he is not, well, sending a low-round draft pick to Carolina for Bridgewater is astute. Lock and Bridgewater can push each other in training camp – may the best man prevail.
A San Francisco Patchover
Or – Fitterer can ship Bridgwater to the San Francisco 49ers. The boss out west recently enacted a biblical trade to acquire the 3rd overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft from the Miami Dolphins. The undeniable implication of this bit of barter is that the 49ers will take a quarterback at the 3-hole. Teams do not trade up, mortgage the future, and hope for the best – by drafting a tackle or wide receiver.
Most of the time, teams like to patch over a young quarterback with a savvy veteran. Bridgewater is that. With his jovial and lovable personality, he is effectively perfect for the job. Whether it’s Justin Fields, Trey Lance, or Mac Jones – Bridgewater as a mentor and placeholder for the team early on in the 2021 season adds up.
Just like the Denver theory, the 49ers won’t have to break the draft capital bank to land Bridgewater.
Should the Panthers wish to sever ties altogether and eat that dastardly cap hit, then Bridgewater could go anywhere. The Houston Texans, Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers all make sense on paper for QB2 roles.
And that’s probably where Bridgewater is at for now – a damn good backup quarterback. Bridgewater overachieved on a stellar New Orleans Saints team in 2019, leading the Bree-less franchise to a flawless 5-0 record in games he started. It was that five-game performance that compelled the Panthers to sign him on the dotted line for QB1 services.
But it didn’t work out.
That’s why Carolina pivoted to Darnold.
Bridgewater isn’t very old. He’s 28 and missed roughly three seasons of action due to a gruesome leg injury from 2016. In terms of his body-life, the man should have a lot more left because he missed so much time. Yet, for now, that will be in a reservist role.
Perhaps he can strive toward a Nick Foles-like rejuvenation elsewhere – the Eagles kind.