The Panthers are moving on from Cam Newton
and already found a replacement. According to multiple reports, the Panthers are finalizing a contract with quarterback Teddy Bridgewater
to be their starter. The deal is expected to come in around $20 million per year, Rapoport added.
It's a quick reversal for the Panthers, who just weeks ago insisted they wanted to keep Newton in Carolina.
Tuesday, the team announced it agreed to let the 2015 NFL MVP seek a trade
, an announcement Newton subsequently said was forced upon him.
With the Newton drama swirling, Bridgewater steps in to fill the void.
The New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers were reported to be interested in Bridgewater, but the Panthers swooped in to secure the former Vikings and Saints signal-caller.
Still just 27 years old, the former first-round pick has rehabbed his way after a devastating knee injury that threatened to end his career in 2016.
Bridgewater spent the past two seasons in New Orleans backing up Drew Brees
. He started five games in 2019 -- all wins -- proving he's fully back and can be a full-time starting quarterback once again.
As NFL Network’s Kevin Patra notes, the time in New Orleans was key for Bridgewater landing in Carolina. In 2018, the quarterback worked with Joe Brady, who was an offensive assistant under Sean Payton at the time. Brady then left last season to help LSU win a college national championship.
Now Brady is in Carolina as the offensive coordinator under first-year coach Matt Rhule.
Bridgewater's experience with Brady, and in the Saints system, which the new OC employed to a certain degree at LSU, should help the transition as the Panthers revamp their entire operation.
How will this change impact the supporting cast?
The situation at quarterback certainly wasn't ideal last year with Kyle Allen
and Will Grier
struggling to get the job done at a consistently high level.
Bridgewater, on the other hand, completed 67.9 percent of his passes last season in New Orleans, averaging 7.1 yards per attempt with nine TDs and two INTs. During his five starts, Bridgewater showed an ability to get the ball out quick, which could play well with the offensive weapons in Carolina, including running back Christian McCaffrey
and receiver D.J. Moore
's skill sets.
With Bridgewater's propensity to check down quickly, McCaffrey is in for another massive year in Carolina.
Remember, McCaffrey joined Marshall Faulk and Roger Craig as the only players to total 1,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards in a season in 2019. Beyond that, he's coming off back-to-back 100-plus catch seasons. McCaffrey has generated a whopping 303 receptions in three seasons and Fantasy owners have been prime beneficiaries.
Even with the changes in Carolina under Matt Rhule, McCaffrey should remain the focal point and the addition of Bridgewater lends further confidence in that notion.
Bridgewater didn't threaten deep much last season in New Orleans, instead, working in the framework of the offense, to get targets the ball quickly. He did, however, make enough splash plays to show he can still put the ball on the money when needed.
How the deep-ball works in Brady's offense -- especially with a speedy threat like Curtis Samuel
on the outside -- will be something to keep an eye on in Carolina early in the campaign.
For now, it's worth noting the Panthers posted 1.2 yards per route run on plays where the wide receiver was targeted, second to last in the NFL in 2019. But with Rhule's history of using a pass-heavy offensive strategy
, at the helm, it's unlikely that Carolina will repeat as the owner of the NFL's lowest passer rating (74.7 in 2019).
One other positive that shouldn't be overlooked: In an offseason in which players might not get to train at their facilities and meet with coaches, Bridgewater already knows the offense and verbiage that Brady uses. The QB will hit the ground running in Carolina.
Since his 2016 injury, Bridgewater has been searching for a team to give him a chance to once again be a starting NFL quarterback. It looks like he found it.