The Carolina Panthers made a huge splash on Monday by shipping three draft picks to the New York Jets for quarterback Sam Darnold, who was selected with the third pick of the 2018 NFL Draft and has a fifth-year option attached to his contract that must be picked up or rejected by May 3.
According to Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports, the Panthers won't keep the 23-year-old waiting:
The Panthers will exercise QB Sam Darnold's fifth-year option, per source.— Jonathan Jones (@jjones9) April 5, 2021
Shortly after the trade, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported the Panthers will likely look to deal quarterback Teddy Bridgewater or ask him to rework his contract to offer the club salary-cap relief. It's assumed Darnold will enter training-camp sessions as Carolina's QB1.
Darnold finished the 2020 season last in the NFL among eligible signal-callers with a 72.7 passer rating and 40.1 total QBR. It's widely believed the Jets will spend the second overall pick of the upcoming NFL Draft on a quarterback, and they are routinely linked with Zach Wilson of the BYU Cougars in mock drafts.
The Jets were reportedly interested in Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, but the fact that he's facing at least 22 lawsuits regarding accusations of sexual assault and misconduct is keeping him in Houston for the foreseeable future despite his trade request:
Darnold was obviously not Carolina's first option. They were involved in the Stafford derby. They really wanted Deshaun. Jimmy G doesn't look to be leaving SF. They couldn't get a top draft QB after the SF-MIA trade. Darnold, by early April, became their best available option.— Jonathan Jones (@jjones9) April 5, 2021
Regardless of the outcomes of any civil and/or criminal cases, Watson could face fines and a suspension via the NFL's personal conduct policy.