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
(Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports) Stephon Gilmore /

Strengthening other areas?

Had Sam Darnold played out his fourth year and swiftly moved on, then the Carolina Panthers would have had an extra $18.85 million to play with. Finding another quarterback was a top priority, obviously, but it might have also represented an opportunity to bolster key positions further and even keep some established figures around this spring.

Haason Reddick’s phenomenal first season in Carolina came with 11 sacks and a wealth of interest in free agency. The Panthers chose not to match the offer he received from the Philadelphia Eagles, but it might have been a different story if more funds were available at the time.

The same applies to Stephon Gilmore, to a lesser extent. It was always going to be difficult keeping the All-Pro and Donte Jackson around due to finances, but a little extra could have persuaded the Panthers to make the former South Carolina standout a tempting offer.

Not only this, but the organization could have been in a position to make a bigger splash in free agency. Something they didn’t do despite securing some nice additions on contracts that haven’t broken the bank.

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There’s nothing the Panthers can do about it now. They just have to let things play out and hope Darnold can somehow make a better go of things in 2022.