In 2020, the Panthers made a two-year financial commitment to quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. After one year, the Panthers decided to move on.
In 2021, the Panthers have made a two-year financial commitment to quarterback Sam Darnold. In theory, they could decide to move on after one year, again.
Bridgewater’s three-year, $63 million deal included a $15 million signing bonus, an $8 million salary in 2020, and $10 million in fully-guaranteed salary in 2021. At this point, Carolina’s only hope is to trade Bridgewater, unloading all or most of that $10 million onto someone else.
Darnold will earn $4.774 million in 2021, the last year of his four-year rookie deal. Under the terms of the 2020 CBA, his 2022 fifth-year option salary of $18.858 million becomes fully guaranteed when exercised. That’s a two-year commitment of $23.632 million to Darnold over two years.
Before 2021, the fifth-year option didn’t become fully guaranteed until the first day of the league year in which the option applied. As of this year, it’s fully-guaranteed when exercised.
That surely won’t stop owner David Tepper from moving on from Darnold after one year, if the Panthers conclude based on one season with Darnold the same thing they concluded based on one season with Bridgewater. It’s a sunk cost, a cost of doing business, a tax on the search for a franchise quarterback.
Whatever the verbal justification, finding a franchise quarterback involves kissing plenty of frogs that may or may not become franchise quarterbacks. Tepper knows that. And it won’t deter him from finding the guy who becomes a 10-to-15-year answer at the position, regardless of the millions spent at a kissing booth on Bridgewater, Darnold, and whoever else they try before finding a franchise quarterback.