Panthers News: Sam Darnold ‘In The Lead’ for Starting Job in 2022

The Carolina Panthers quarterback carousel keeps on spinning.

After missing out on Deshaun Watson, the Panthers’ options are dwindling quickly. The team reportedly isn’t interested in Baker Mayfield, and the only other option on the trade market is Jimmy Garoppolo. The Panthers have even considered bringing back Cam Newton — for some reason — and are more than likely going to draft a QB at No. 6 overall in April’s NFL Draft.

Yet, here we are. Just weeks before the NFL Draft, the latest reports suggest that the Panthers are ready to give Sam Darnold the starting job once again.

Panthers GM Scott Fitterer is ready to give Sam Darnold the job

There it is.

On Friday, Panthers GM Scott Fitterer suggested that Darnold is “in the lead” for the starting role in 2022. That is quite the development, mainly because he insisted that there would be an open competition at the position just weeks ago.

Even more confusing are Fitterer’s comments about the latest update on the QB trade market.

So, the Panthers haven’t been active on the trade market after failing to land Watson. That makes sense why Darnold is “in the lead” for the role at this moment, at least. However, it doesn’t look they are done adding QBs to the roster.

A lot can change, but the Panthers are ready to go into training camp with Darnold on top of the depth chart for now.

The Panthers are taking a QB in the 2022 NFL Draft no matter what

The 2022 NFL Draft is a big one for the Panthers. Head coach Matt Rhule is likely entering his final season in Carolina, barring some miraculous turnaround.

The QB turmoil since he entered has been a headache, leading the Panthers into a forced hand of having to take a signal-caller in the draft.

Liberty star Malik Willis keeps earning consideration at No. 2 overall with the Detroit Lions, meaning the Panthers would then have their choice of Matt Corral, Kenny Pickett, Sam Howell, or Desmond Ridder at No. 6.

The likely picks are between Corral and Pickett, who the Panthers have checked in on during the NFL Combine and Pro Days.

The Panthers also put out a full-court press at Pickett’s Pro Day, and the ties within the Carolina organization are too much to overlook.

That’s not all. The Panthers also checked in heavily on Malik Willis, so their desire to find a QB in this draft is the No. 1 priority.

The question remains on who they select, and there is a legitimate possibility that no QBs get taken before the Panthers choose at No. 6 overall.

However, the talk of the draft is that none of these guys will be ready to start in Week 1, and signings such as Mariota and Trubisky are perfect examples of how teams feel about this QB group for the time being.

So, it makes sense that the Panthers are ready to go into the season with Darnold, even though that would most likely be a mistake.

Sam Darnold as the Panthers QB in 2022 might mean the end of Matt Rhule’s time

Rhule’s time in Carolina has not been a good one. That is probably an understatement.

The Teddy Bridgewater signing backfired, and the Panthers then traded away a trio of draft picks for Darnold only to trade away Bridgewater for just a sixth-round choice. Then, they exercised Darnold’s fifth-year option and brought in Cam Newton following Darnold’s injury in 2022.

That didn’t work out, either, so the Panthers are running thin on their patience with Rhule. If Darnold doesn’t turn the corner in 2022, it likely means the end of Rhule’s tenure with the franchise.

With everything the Panthers have done in recent years, it shouldn’t be surprising that they are ready to signal Darnold as the QB.

Stats Courtesy of Pro Football Reference

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