According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Panthers don’t mind having Bridgewater in the fold for 2021, but are letting the veteran quarterback control his destiny.
Following the trade for Sam Darnold, the #Panthers spoke with QB Teddy Bridgewater and allowed him the opportunity to talk with teams to potentially facilitate a trade, sources say. Carolina is open to Bridgewater returning, but will give him a chance to have a say in his future.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) April 6, 2021
Obviously, when Carolina gave up three draft picks to the New York Jets in exchange for Darnold, the writing was on the wall that Bridgewater’s time with the Panthers was coming to an end. It’s classy of the Panthers to not play games and drag out the proceedings. Instead they’re letting Bridgewater try to move on as quickly as possible.
So where could Bridgewater realistically land and either have a chance to start or set himself up for a crack at a starting gig in the next phase of his career? Let’s take a look at the three best landing spots.
This one immediately leaps to mind. Current Broncos offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur has gushed about Bridgewater in the past. The one season they shared with the Minnesota Vikings unfortunately happened to be when Bridgewater suffered the catastrophic knee injury that completely changed his NFL trajectory.
Drew Lock is hardly the traditional dropback passer Shurmur covets to run his West Coast system. Lock is more of a gunslinger and freelancer, and while he has a lot of raw talent and underrated athleticism, the former second-round pick doesn’t look like the franchise’s long-term answer under center.
There’s no guarantee Bridgewater would get the starting nod over Lock, yet he could provide serious competition for the third-year pro, be a valuable mentor and get the most out of the 2019 second-round pick. If Lock flops, Bridgewater would be right there to fill in and inherit a loaded, young supporting cast of pass-catchers in Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, Noah Fant and KJ Hamler.
Few quarterbacks come to mind aside from Bridgewater in terms of who’d be a better fit in the short, precision-based passing attack Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels loves to deploy.
Cam Newton is back in New England on an incentive-heavy, one-year contract. If the Patriots don’t feel like overpaying for Jimmy Garoppolo in a trade, they can acquire someone like Bridgewater probably for a Day 3 pick and give Newton some legitimate competition for the starting gig.
While Newton could very well flourish in Year 2 in Foxborough, his skill set doesn’t really match up with what McDaniels got accustomed to when he had Tom Brady at QB. Bridgewater is more in that mold as a pure pocket passer, and while he can make plays with his legs, he’s much more of a point guard-style distributor.
The Patriots loaded up on weapons in free agency. Bridgewater is an ideal fit for New England’s system and would also be protected by one of the NFL’s premier offensive lines. You can bet Bridgewater and Newton would bring the best out of each other in a heated training camp competition that’d probably be a win-win scenario for the team.
Trading out of conference is usually a big deal when it comes to trades like this, so Bridgewater could probably convince Carolina to send him to Pittsburgh, and it wouldn’t cost the Steelers much of anything.
With Ben Roethlisberger likely entering his final season and Pittsburgh’s current QB depth chart rounded out by the likes of Dwayne Haskins and Mason Rudolph, there’s no reason to think Bridgewater can’t beat both of those guys out for the No. 2 job.
While it’d mean sitting behind Big Ben, Bridgewater would immediately jump to the front of the line as the Steelers’ long-term successor. He’s not in the physical mold of Roethlisberger, Haskins or Rudolph, who are all bigger, stockier QBs who don’t move very well.
Despite not fitting the measurements and prototype Pittsburgh general manager Kevin Colbert often covets, though, Bridgewater is someone who can help Haskins shed his first-round bust label and fill in for Roethlisberger if he struggles to the extent he did down the stretch of 2020.
In terms of what the Steelers have personnel-wise, Bridgewater makes a lot of sense. Similar to Denver, he’d have lots of youthful playmakers to throw to in JuJu Smith-Schuster, Chase Claypool, Diontae Johnson and James Washington, not to mention Eric Ebron at tight end.