Saturday, June 12, 2021

Panthers Sam Darnold trade is a big gamble

Sitting on the number 8 pick in this years NFL Draft seemed to be working out perfectly for the Carolina Panthers. And then news of the Panthers Sam Darnold trade broke. All of a sudden on Easter Monday the Panthers rocked up to the NFL casino and put down a big bet on the New York Jets unwanted quarterback Sam Darnold.

Having suggested just a few days ago here, that the longer the Jets waited the lower Darnold’s value would go, the Panthers arguably stumped up more than most were expecting a few months ago.

With the draft seemingly falling in their favour with news the Falcons weren’t looking at QB, the chances of one of the so-called big five dropping to them seemed very good.

While the limited number of free agents have been snapped up: Mitchell Trubisky and his 29-21 career record went to the Bills to backup Josh Allen on $2.5-million per year; And Dalton(74-66-2) and Ryan Fitzpatrick(59-86-1) for $10-million per year to the Bears and Washington respectively; Tyrod Taylor(24-21-1) to the Houston Texans for $5.5-million per year; the Panthers have loaded up on Sam Darnold.


It’s fair to say that of those free agents only Mitchell Trubisky is worth much as a long-term starter. He’s not explosive, he’s not exciting, and the Bears, who still need a long-term solution, just dumped him so his stock is low.

But the Panthers Sam Darnold deal see’s them part with 2nd-round and 4th-round picks in 2022, and a 7th-round pick this year. Remember when the Miami Dolphins took a punt on Josh Rosen? 2nd round pick. When those same Dolphins dumped Ryan Tannehill? 4th-round pick. The Panthers gave up that amount to get Sam Darnold (plus a seventh-rounder).

So if we set aside the compensation in terms of picks, we see that the Panthers Sam Darnold deal is now worth $4.774-million in 2021. Nearly twice Mitchell Trubisky’s salary. And assuming they exercise Darnold’s fifth-year option that will cost the Panthers $18.858-million. You would have to expect them to exercise that option, which they must do by May 3rd, otherwise you’ve traded those picks for a one-year loan.

Plus the Panthers are allowing Teddy Bridgewater to seek a trade, so they’re pretty tied in at this point.

So all of this begs the question why are the Panthers this keen to land Sam Darnold?

Sam DarnoldTeddy BridgewaterMitchell Trubisky

Statistics certainly aren’t the answer here were Darnold has a much lower completion percentage and a much higher interception percentage than both the incumbent Teddy Bridgewater and the potential free-agent signing that wasn’t in Mitchell Trubisky. His TD% ranks second to Trubisky, but his yards per attempt is dragged down to just 6.6% owing to that very poor completion percentage.

If we look at the new analytics brigade we see Darnold rank dead last with both PFF, and ESPN’s QBR metric in 2020.

Panthers Sam Darnold deal is a massive gamble when one wasn't needed ©
Panthers Sam Darnold deal is a massive gamble when one wasn’t needed ©

And that’s why the Panthers Sam Darnold deal is such a gamble. With three-years of film Matt Ruhle and Scott Fitterer believe they can turn Sam Darnold into the pre-draft Sam Darnold, and not the New York Jets version.

They believe where the Jets have failed they can succeed. They believe that Darnold is better than the QB that may have dropped to them at number 8. Because they could’ve waited until after the draft and see who fell to them, if anyone, and then made the move.

And could they be right? They’re much smarter than us pundits for sure. But it’s a big gamble that is based on the NY Jets using Sam Darnold wrong, and not surrounding him with enough talent. But this is a big gamble to potentially upgrade on a non-horrendous QB when one could’ve been about to drop in their lap in the draft.

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