Trading for Sam Darnold, picking up his 5th-year option
The Carolina Panthers had a quarterback dilemma to solve once Scott Fitterer into the building. Teddy Bridgewater had two years remaining on his deal. However, those in power felt more was needed to take the organization forward.
Despite the perceived strength of the 2021 NFL Draft class, the Panthers went down an alternative route. They saw something on film that suggested Sam Darnold could be saved. This resulted in a bombshell trade with the New York Jets that cost second, fourth, and sixth-round selections.
Darnold was the No. 3 overall selection in the 2018 draft. Things hadn't gone according to plan with the Jets, but the blame was placed squarely on Adam Gates rather than the signal-caller's talent.
Not only did the Panthers trade for Darnold, but they triggered his fifth-year opinion before he got into the building. They felt it was a risk worth taking - especially if the former USC star fulfilled his promise - but it was another gamble that blew up in Fitterer's face.
Much has been made about Matt Rhule's control at the time. Fitterer was new to the building, so this was the perfect chance to stamp his mark and question the complete chaos unfolding around him.
Instead, he enabled the behavior. This makes him complicit and equally as responsible for Darnold's acquisition. Something that led to his benching in favor of Baker Mayfield one year later with more than $18 million guaranteed against the salary cap.