The Carolina Panthers need to upgrade from Sam Darnold, and even if they must reach in the 2022 NFL Draft, then so be it.
It’s been two years of head coach Matt Rhule trying to find the right answer under center. So far, it has resulted in a pair of campaigns with five wins apiece.
Rhule is now entering his third season and perhaps his final with the Panthers if things don’t swiftly turn. And if fortunes are going to take an about-face, a new signal-caller is a must in Charlotte.
This isn’t lost on general manager Scott Fitterer. Fitterer spoke to the media on Monday and was candid in his assessment of the position, saying he’s already spoken to quarterback Sam Darnold about what to expect this week, per ESPN:
“We need to help him out as well. I think we’ve done a good job … surrounding him with talent where he doesn’t feel he has to make every play.
“But in our conversation I said, ‘Hey, we are going to add to this [quarterback] group through this weekend, there’s a pretty good chance we could add to this group,’” Fitterer said. “It’s open competition. It’s his spot right now, but whoever can take the spot and run with it, we’re going to do that.”
Carolina picks No. 6 overall in the draft, and nobody before it will be selecting a quarterback. The Panthers have to worry about being jumped by the New Orleans Saints, who have the ammo to get into the top-five by packaging its multiple first-round picks, but otherwise should be in the relative clear.
Should the Panthers stay at sixth and not trade back to backfill second and third-round selections which were previously traded, Carolina will likely have the opportunity to pick between Malik Willis (Liberty), Kenny Pickett (Pittsburgh) and any other quarterback it could dream of.
While nobody believes any quarterback is worth a top-10 choice in this draft on the basis of overall grade, the importance of the position will certainly pressure a few teams into reaching. Carolina is the classic case of having desperation while being in a spot of having to choose between the best player, and the best player to extend jobs and potentially, fix a broken franchise.
On Thursday, we’ll see how the Panthers solve their problem.