5 pending Carolina Panthers free agents who won’t be back in 2023

(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Sam Darnold
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Sam Darnold /
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Carolina Panthers
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Sam Darnold /

SAM DARNOLD. 5. player. 87. . QB. Carolina Panthers

Sam Darnold – Carolina Panthers QB

All the fanfare and anticipation surrounding Sam Darnold’s trade from the New York Jets evaporated quickly after Christian McCaffrey was forced to miss a considerable period of time through injury. The quarterback was exposed for being a suspect decision-maker with questionable footwork that has yet to be rectified over his four-year professional career so far.

The Carolina Panthers could not wait around on the off chance Darnold took a meteoric leap forward this offseason. Striking out on some high-profile names in the trade market eventually led them to Matt Corral – a signal-caller they gave a first-round grade to that the team was able to snag at No. 94 overall.

Corral looks like he could become a productive starter.

It just might not happen right away.

This could lead to Darnold getting one final shot at the starting job early on. Although the prospect of bringing in another veteran via free agency or the trade market has yet to be ruled out entirely by the organization.

Had the Panthers not activated Darnold’s fifth-year option with entire confidence this would end up being a bargain, then he’d likely be on the scrapheap or on another team already. But a fully guaranteed $18.85 million is a significant amount of dead money to take on for a team with a little more than $25 million in free funds available.

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What the short-term future holds for Darnold is unclear. But there is no chance whatsoever he is extended beyond his current contract once it expires in 2023.