CHARLOTTE — Such that there were lingering questions, the Panthers answered them Wednesday.
The Panthers cleared the way for new quarterback Sam Darnold to work without any kind of cloud over his head or doubt about his status, trading incumbent starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to the Broncos for a 2021 sixth-round pick.
Dealing Bridgewater was likely inevitable once the Panthers traded three picks (including a second- and fourth-rounder next year) for the 23-year-old Darnold earlier this month.
Bridgewater, 28, started 15 games for the Panthers last year, missing one with a knee injury.
He threw for 3,733 yards in 2020, and his 69.1 completion percentage ranked fifth in the league among regular starters. But he had just 15 touchdowns on the season, and faltered late in some games.
Of course, blaming all of last year's offensive issues on Bridgewater would be disingenuous. He played in just three games with running back Christian McCaffrey, the last of which was a 33-31 loss at Kansas City which showed what the offense might have been.
Bridgewater was 5-0 as a starter in New Orleans in 2019, playing well in relief of Drew Brees. But that never translated the same way in Charlotte, leading them to cut bait a year into the three-year deal he signed last offseason.
He won the NFL's 2020 Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award, given annually to a player who best demonstrates the qualities of on-field sportsmanship, including fair play, respect for the game and opponents, and integrity in competition.
Now they have a more clearly defined depth chart, though they're still able to add to the position if the opportunity arises this weekend.
And with the trade, the Panthers now have eight picks in the 2021 NFL Draft (eighth overall, 39th, 73rd, 113th, 151st, 191st, 193rd, 222nd).