Scott Fitterer: Adding Sam Darnold gives Panthers options

Sam Darnold, Robby Anderson

CHARLOTTE — Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer likes a lot of the football tools Sam Darnold brings, obviously.

But he also loves the flexibility Darnold gives the team.

After trading a 2021 sixth-rounder and a pair of 2022 picks (a second-rounder and a fourth) to the Jets for the 23-year-old quarterback, Fitterer said having Darnold on board now doesn't dictate any other down-the-line moves he might make.

Specifically, he was addressing a question about this year's draft. But it extends beyond the eighth overall pick, which he still owns.

"This doesn't take out of anything in the draft," Fitterer said. "It doesn't take us out of taking a quarterback, it doesn't take us out of taking any position. What we wanted to do going into this draft, through free agency, through this trade with Sam, was to just get rid of all the needs we have. We wanted to get to a place where the roster was in a good spot, and we could take the best available player at number eight.

"We could always move up, and we could always move back, but this puts us in a position to make the right football decision for this team moving forward."

Of course, the elephant in the room remains incumbent quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

Fitterer said he talked to Bridgewater and his representatives but was careful not to rule out the possibility of last year's starter staying here in some role. This is where you have to point out that everything is always on the table — "In on every deal" means "In on every deal" — but Fitterer alluded to the possibility of a contract adjustment or a trade, as well.

"I think there's things we have to work through, obviously," Fitterer said. "And I've already talked to Teddy's agents. We're going to find the right place, whether it's here or wherever it may be, we'll figure things out, contract-wise as well."

But Fitterer was clearly an admirer of Darnold's work, going back to his days at Southern Cal, when Fitterer was still working in the Seahawks' front office.

"Sam is a guy I really liked," Fitterer said. "Liked the competitor, liked the toughness, the ability to move in the pocket, he can make big plays downfield with his arm. All those things really stood out about him.

"I think in this offense with Joe Brady, with Matt Rhule, with the weapons we have around him, that he can take that next step with us."

Darnold never had the kind of skill-position talent around him with the Jets he has now.

And now that the Panthers have someone they believe can be a quality starter in-house without giving up assets in this year's draft, they could add to the support, and ideally, give him a better chance to succeed.

View photos of Sam Darnold during his years with the New York Jets from 2018-20.

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