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 /
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Carolina Panthers
(Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports) Deshaun Watson /

Deshaun Watson saga

Even though the controversy surrounding Deshaun Watson remained, the Carolina Panthers were relentless in their pursuit of the quarterback. This chase spanned more than a year and came to a head when the former Clemson star found out he would face no legal action relating to sexual misconduct allegations, which sent trade offers to the Houston Texans from around the league.

Carolina stumped up the necessary compensation to get a meeting with Watson at long last. Although it reportedly went well, the player’s contract demands were the cutting-off point for the Panthers, meaning they were out of luck once again.

Watson eventually agreed to join the Cleveland Browns after getting $230 million fully guaranteed. This seedy deal even included little in the way of base salary in 2022 ahead of a potential league suspension.

Had the Panthers not been on the hook for $18.85 million thanks to Sam Darnold’s fifth-year option, would things have been different?

Maybe. That is a lot of money, after all.

However, it’s clear that Watson was not all that keen on joining the Panthers. Had he been, then a deal would have been secured long before his move to Cleveland.

This whole scenario didn’t paint the Panthers in a great light and divided the fanbase, to put it mildly. But we’ll never know how Darnold’s presence on the team impacted their decision.