What Panthers' Sam Darnold Trade Means For Patriots

Patriots affected by Panthers' deal for Darnold
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The New York Jets on Monday revealed the worst-kept secret — or at least the second-worst-kept secret — in the NFL, as they traded quarterback Sam Darnold to the Carolina Panthers.

That means the rumors that they’ll be picking BYU quarterback Zach Wilson at No. 2 in this month’s NFL Draft are true.

This trade has multiple implications for the Patriots, the most obvious of which is the Jets are starting over with a new quarterback again, likely leaving just three competitors for the AFC East crown. Not only do you have to like the Jets’ chances of struggling at the start with Wilson, you also have to like the odds that he’ll be the one of the top five quarterbacks who are expected to go in the first half of the first round who won’t pan out — just based on the green team from New York picking him.

Closer to home, here are a few other effects the Darnold trade could have on the Patriots:

Less competition for QB

With the Panthers plugging Darnold into their quarterback slot, they’re unlikely to be interested in a quarterback at number 8 in the draft. Does this mean the Panthers will ship out the pick? Maybe.

Related: Patriots 2021 Offseason Tracker

If the Pats have a quarterback after Trevor Lawrence and Wilson that they like, would No. 8 be high enough to grab him? Well, we know San Francisco at No. 3 is quarterback hunting, but we don't know which one the 49ers like. After that, the coast might be clear with Atlanta, Cincinnati, Miami and Detroit picking 4 through 7 — though the Falcons are a wild card here because they might be tempted to land their successor to Matt Ryan.

Darnold out of the mix

It was never going to happen in a direct trade, but there had been rumblings that the 23-year-old Darnold could be a fit for the Pats, especially if the Jets had decided to release him. Considering how slowly he’s developed in his three seasons since the Jets picked him third overall in 2018, he was always going to be too much of a risk for the Pats to take.

Bridgewater interest

In 2014, Teddy Bridgewater visited the Pats before he was drafted by Minnesota at No. 32. The Pats took defensive tackle Dominique Easley at No. 29. Last spring, NFL Network reported the Pats again had interest in Bridgewater after Tom Brady left. Instead Bridgewater went to Carolina and the Pats signed Cam Newton in July.

Now the Panthers seemingly have less use for Bridgewater, but they could rework his contract to make it more palatable for him to stay.

At 28, Bridgewater has probably hit his performance ceiling and wouldn’t be a long-term answer for the Pats, who may as well just stick with Newton and Jarrett Stidham if they’d have to trade assets for Bridgewater.

Garoppolo's value

If San Francisco really wants a first-round pick for Jimmy Garoppolo — an oft-injured, albeit Super Bowl experienced, quarterback — and a fourth-year former No. 3 overall pick is worth a sixth-round pick in this year’s draft and a second- and fourth-round pick in next year’s draft, there has to be happy medium the Pats and 49ers could find, if in fact the Pats are interested and the Niners have been fibbing lately about not looking to trade the 29-year-old.