What comes next for Carolina Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold after the team traded up to select Matt Corral at No. 94 overall in the 2022 NFL Draft?
Sam Darnold was not naive enough to think that the Carolina Panthers were not going to make a move at quarterback at some stage during the 2022 NFL Draft. Whether that was with a college prospect or with another veteran trade, general manager Scott Fitterer sat down and told the USC product in no uncertain terms that help would be arriving.
Darnold has been taking everything in his stride this offseason. A dismal campaign under center in 2021 following his trade from the New York Jets meant the Panthers were forced to explore every possible avenue in pursuit of finding the right solution after a series of failed moves.
They were unable to land Deshaun Watson or Russell Wilson, which was nothing more than a pipedream once they got better options. It looked as if Baker Mayfield had a good chance of ending up in Carolina until the last minute when they moved up the pecking order to select Matt Corral at No. 94 overall.
Aside from Kenny Pickett, who went to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Round No. 1, the steep drop for other prospects at the position was alarming. Malik Willis was the next to go at No. 86, which prompted Carolina to make their play and bring Corral on board.
Although Corral has some likable traits, he is expected to need time before assuming command. This might end up being good news for Darnold, who could end up starting the season in 2022 as a result.
Sam Darnold faces a fight for his Carolina Panthers’ future
Of course, the writing is now on the wall for Darnold, who is guaranteed $18.85 million next season after the Panthers picked up his fifth-year option. Carolina’s offensive line should be much improved following the additions of Ikem Ekwonu, Bradley Bozeman, and Austin Corbett, which might be all the signal-caller needs to start finally realizing his potential.
However, if Corral progresses quicker than anticipated, Darnold might have his work cut out keeping him off the field. Even if he does, the player will be on an extremely short leash over the first few games.
It’s unlikely that the Panthers will cut Darnold loose despite having the league’s most salary-cap space. But the player once tabbed as the next big thing is now nothing more than a bridge quarterback until Corral is ready.
What’s important for Darnold is focusing on what he can control.
Improving footwork, decision-making, and processing is the only way he’ll salvage his career. Something that Darnold has been unable to accomplish over his first four NFL seasons.
Most fans will not be sad to see the back of Darnold. Even if they might have to sit through a few more games of the player unless Corral takes a monumental leap forward in the coming months.
It might also be worth Carolina getting Corral involved as soon as possible to see what exactly they have. If it’s not what they expect, then one cannot rule out the possibility of selecting another quarterback in 2023 from a much stronger class.
As for Darnold, things look pretty bleak right now.
But he’s unlikely to be giving up his status without a fight.