What’s next for the Carolina Panthers at top quarterback?

It’s not a well-kept secret in NFL circles. The Carolina Panthers desperately need a quarterback. Panthers coach Matt Rhule knows it. Panthers owner David Tepper knows it. Even outgoing Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold knows it. But what will they do to address the position this offseason?

What will the Panthers do at quarterback?

The Panthers are expected to be heavily involved in trying to improve the QB position and engage in a wide-ranging search that includes potential trades, free agent optionsand the NFL Draft, according to league sources not authorized to speak publicly.

The Panthers could move on from Darnold and lean into everyone from Deshaun Watson – despite his unresolved legal issues – to Carson Wentz, Jimmy Garoppolo and Kirk Cousins, as well as the NFL Draft.

As for the draft, the Panthers hold the sixth overall pick in the first round. A quarterback is unlikely to be ranked high enough to warrant writing one there. However, GM Scott Fitterer could swap and explore everyone, like Pitt’s Kenny Pickettfreedom Malik WillisOle Miss’ Matt Coraland North Carolina Sam Howell.

The Panthers could also try to build around Darnold ($18.858 million guaranteed for 2022) and see if they can improve the offensive line to a point where he can be a more effective pocket passer.

Matt Rhule could be in the hot seat if things don’t work out

At a season-ending press conference, Rhule, who many in the league believe is in the hot seat if he doesn’t engineer a major turnaround this season, said the Panthers will “look into everything” to find a quarterback. -back that can make the team a competitor.

“We recognize that we need to improve the overall quarterback game here,” Rhule said. “We’ve started four quarterbacks in two years, and that’s not the recipe for success. If you look at playoff teams, they have consistency at quarterback.

Those quarterbacks from that span include Darnold, Cam Newton (who struggled last season and is considered unlikely to return), Teddy Bridgewater and backup PJ Walker (who went 2-0 as a starter).

Owner David Tepper as QB

“I think when you come to quarterbacks and the NFL in general, you always want to try to figure out, ‘Do you have the best that’s in this position right now?'” Tepper said when the team fired general manager Marty Hurney. two years ago. “And it’s a constant evaluation and re-evaluation of that. And that’s what we will constantly go through. It’s an ongoing process, and it’s all about who that guy can be that can help you win. This is the most important position on the pitch.

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“Unless you have this guy for sure that gets you to the playoffs and the Super Bowl, you have to keep evaluating that because that’s the only thing that matters is the Super Bowl. And until ’til you have this guy, you rate, rate, rate every year.

Who the Panthers could target in the offseason

Because the Panthers aren’t the only team that will be in the quarterback market, they find themselves in a competitive situation.

In particular, the Watson situation is worth watching. Watson played close to Clemson, winning a national championship. He still faces 22 civil lawsuits and 10 criminal complaints alleging sexual misconduct and/or sexual assault during his sessions with massage therapists. His lawyer, Rusty Hardin, expressed optimism this week during a special court hearing regarding the NFL player’s deposition schedule that there could be a decision on whether he will face criminal charges. by April 1.

The Panthers are among the NFL teams closely monitoring Watson’s situation. Watson has a no-trade clause in his $156 million contract and is said to be open-minded towards several NFL teams, including the Panthers. Watson is to receive a base salary of $35 million for 2021, fully guaranteed for skills, injuries and the salary cap.

Who could Carolina be coveting besides Watson?

Wentz’s stock fell significantly. Also, the Panthers were not among the teams that chased him when he was on the trade block with the Eagles. Of course, the price could be low.

Garoppolo is seen as a more viable option for the Panthers and other teams. Especially when healthy and surrounded by strong defense and running game, Garoppolo is capable of winning football games.

Bottom line: Carolina needs quarterback help. How they do this will go a long way in determining Rhule’s future.

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