4 scenarios if the Panthers hadn’t picked up Sam Darnold’s 5th-year option

(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Sam Darnold
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Sam Darnold /
1 of 5

What could have occurred this offseason had the Carolina Panthers not picked up quarterback Sam Darnold’s fifth-year option? 

The Carolina Panthers have a solid-looking roster overall after a frantic offseason period. However, there remains one glaring question mark at the most important position on the field.

Finding the right solution at quarterback has been a conundrum of epic proportions for the Panthers since the new regime decided to cut ties with Cam Newton in 2020. Teddy Bridgewater lasted just one season, P.J. Walker was never going to cut it, and the trade to acquire Sam Darnold from the New York Jets was a move that simply didn’t pay off.

Such was the level of panic, Carolina even brought Newton back last season before their Week 10 triumph at the Arizona Cardinals. This provided the fanbase with brief promise, but it was clear from the outset that the former NFL MVP was never going to get much of a chance once Darnold returned to full health.

This put the Panthers in a bit of a bind this spring. They did manage to secure their signal-caller of choice in the form of Matt Corral at No. 94 overall, but whether he’ll be ready to start right out of the gate is another matter entirely.

Carolina has been restricted somewhat by the decision to trigger Darnold’s fifth-year option before he’d played a snap. The deadline obviously forced them into this action, but hindsight suggests that it was the wrong call to make based on his level of production in 2021.

With that being said, what would have happened this offseason if the Panthers had taken a wait-and-see approach instead of giving Darnold a fully guaranteed $18.85 million for the upcoming campaign?