Panthers trust Sam Darnold’s potential by picking up fifth-year option

The Carolina panthers will likely believe in Sam Darnold at least for two seasons after opting in on his fifth-year deal. 

After three seasons of hoping things would work in New York, the Jets are moving off Sam Darnold before the NFL Draft.

New York elected to trade Darnold to the Carolina Panthers in exchange for a sixth-rounder in 2021 and a second-rounder and fourth-rounder in 2022. The Panthers now will be hoping that much like Ryan Tannehill in Tennessee, Darnold can be the starter for the long-term.

They at least will give the former No. 3 pick two seasons to figure things out. According to CBS Sports’ Johnathan Jones, the Panthers will exercise his fifth-year option before May 3.

Can Darnold figure it out in the Queen City?

Panthers’ owner David Tepper made it clear that the team would be looking to upgrade over Teddy Bridgewater. The team was interested in trading for Deshaun Watson following his announcement of asking for a trade from the Houston. That now is in question due to Watson’s legal situation.

The fifth-year option will cost $18.9 million according to The Athletic’s Joe Person. This isn’t to say that Darnold will not come without his own faults, but new GM Scott Fitterer must view him as the best option for the present.

The question is what can Darnold ceiling be. Since entering the NFL he’s thrown a whopping 39 interceptions and 20 fumbles. However, the Jets also didn’t help their cause when it came to protecting him downfield. He was sacked at least 30 times in each of his first three seasons.

Matt Rhule and Joe Brady are expected to fix the mechanics that Darnold struggled with under Adam Gase. With the quarterback position solved, it also will allow Carolina to target a tackle of the future. Perhaps Oregon’s Penei Sewell or Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater would be a perfect replacement for veteran Russell Okung.

Ultimately, the fifth-year option doesn’t force the Panthers to stick to Darnold, but it does allot them time to decide what his role will be for the future. Should he thrive in Brady’s system, the two sides can begin looking at a long-term deal. Should he still struggle with the turnovers, Tepper could go right back to adding another quarterback via the draft.

Darnold is three months younger than former No. 1 pick Joe Burrow. There’s still time for flaws to be fixed. In Carolina, it’s a fresh start on a quarterback that showed immense potential out of USC entering the NFL Draft.

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