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The Carolina Panthers just paid Teddy Bridgewater like a franchise quarterback, but former Panthers’ wide receiver Steve Smith doesn’t see it. Smith appeared on ESPN’s First Take Monday to talk about his expectations for Carolina’s new QB. He refused to call Bridgewater a franchise quarterback, saying he’s just a fill-in until the Panthers find their guy for the future.

The Panthers ditched Cam Newton to start fresh with Teddy Bridgewater

Cam Newton brought the Panthers to a Super Bowl a few years ago, but the team felt his time was up in 2020. Carolina cut Newton this offseason and signed Bridgewater to a three-year, $63 million deal.

Shelling out $21 million per year for Bridgewater signaled to the league that Carolina believes he can bring the franchise back to relevance. The Panthers went 5-11 last season and missed the playoffs for the second straight year. They’re hoping Bridgewater can solve their QB problem that developed over the last few years.

Bridgewater was excellent as a backup for the New Orleans Saints last year. He started five games with Drew Brees out of the lineup, and he went 5-0 in those starts. Bridgewater threw nine touchdowns and two interceptions with New Orleans last year. His 67.9 completion percentage was the best of his young career so far.

The Panthers saw enough out of Bridgewater last season to believe he can be a franchise quarterback again. Steve Smith, however, disagrees.

Bridgewater was already considered a franchise QB with the Vikings

Bridgewater might’ve morphed into a backup quarterback over the last few years, but he was considered the answer to the Vikings’ quarterback situation out of college. He was drafted in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft and started 12 games for Minnesota as a rookie. He was named Rookie of the Year for 2014.

The former Louisville standout led the Vikings to the playoffs in 2015 and even made the Pro Bowl. He should’ve led Minnesota to a playoff victory over the Seahawks the same year, but Blair Walsh missed a chip shot in the final minute to blow the game.

Bridgewater was considered the Vikings‘ franchise quarterback after the 2015 season until a gruesome injury in 2016 changed his career forever. He missed the entire season and only played in one more game for the Vikings.

The terrible stroke of luck turned Bridgewater from a franchise QB on the verge of a major contract to a backup in two short years. Now, he gets another chance to become a franchise player again with the Panthers.

Steve Smith says free agents like Bridgewater are just placeholders

Bridgewater is still only 27 years old, but Steve Smith thinks the Panthers will replace him with a draft pick sooner than later.

Smith went on First Take Monday and said Bridgewater isn’t a long-term answer to the Panthers’ quarterback problem. The longtime Panther still roots for his old team to succeed, but he doesn’t think they will down the road with Bridgewater.

Smith explained free agent signings are temporary fill-ins for teams searching for a long-term solution.

“I look at free agency as a quick fix. It’s duct tape. That’s what free agency is,” Smith said on the show. “The draft is about getting long-term acquisitions. Free agency really is, you’re just borrowing someone for that amount of time, and then you get the guy that you want through the draft.”

Bridgewater might succeed in the immediate future, but Smith doesn’t believe he’s the Panthers’ new franchise quarterback.