Are QBs Sam Darnold, Matt Corral good enough, or do the Carolina Panthers need Baker Mayfield?

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CHARLOTTE, NC – At some point shortly after next week’s mandatory minicamp, the Carolina Panthers will decide if they are confident in having Sam Darnold compete with rookie Matt Corral and former XFL star PJ Walker for the starting quarterback job – or whether to swap for another veteran, such as Baker Mayfield or Jimmy Garoppolo.

ESPN NFL analyst Dan Orlovsky said he “loves” Darnold. He still believes the third pick in the 2018 draft “could be one of the best quarterbacks in the league”, despite a record of 17-32 as a starter.

So when Orlovsky says the Panthers would be a great place for Mayfield, the disgruntled Cleveland Brown quarterback, it’s not out of disrespect for Darnold. It’s out of respect for what he thinks Mayfield could do for Carolina.

“They have a chance to get really good with solid quarterback play,” Orlovsky said.

Orlovsky likes the way General Manager Scott Fitterer strengthened the list after the Panthers’ failed attempt to acquire Deshaun Watson, which made Mayfield useless when he joined the Browns.

Darnold and Mayfield are in proof-it-state as they enter the final year of their rookie deals. Combine that with four years of NFL experience and they have a better chance of pushing each other to improve, making them better options than third-round rookie Corral.

The biggest advantage Mayfield has over Corral and Darnold is 29 wins in 59 starts. One could make the same argument for San Francisco 49ers quarterback Garoppolo, who is 33-14 starting.

But Garoppolo’s 2022 cap figure ($ 26.95 million) makes him less attractive to the Panthers when added to Darnold’s guaranteed salary ($ 18.8 million). There are also some in the organization who question whether Garoppolo is much of an upgrade, even though the same goes for Mayfield.


All we know for sure is that the Panthers are keeping their options open in terms of adding a veteran quarterback, such as Mayfield, the first pick of the 2018 draft.

And so far, they feel comfortable with Darnold, who on Wednesday had it, coach Matt Rhule called his best practice since joining the Panthers last season.

“I thought Sam was unique,” Rhule said. “He’s taken a very stoic approach to, ‘Hey, I want to control what I can control.’ He can not control the decisions we make as an organization. By taking that approach, we’ve seen Sam get better and better. “

Rhule also said that Darnold must ultimately prove his worth in games. Therefore, it is important to decide now whether the team is comfortable that can happen or whether another veteran is needed.

For a Mayfield deal to happen, the Panthers would need the Browns to pay most of his 2022 salary ($ 18.8 million), and the Panthers would likely have to send a draft to Cleveland. That was where the negotiations were under draft, where the Browns, according to a league source, were only willing to pay $ 3.5 million of Mayfield’s salary.

The second option would be if Cleveland released Mayfield, but there is no indication at the moment that that will happen. If he was released, Mayfield would have control over where he goes and other teams could be more attractive.

After next week’s minicamps, Rhule will meet with Fitterer to discuss whether it makes sense to add a veteran from an economic and competitive point of view.

Where there is certainty, especially for Orlovsky, is that Mayfield would be a better option in 2022 than Corral.

It makes sense, based on what new Carolina offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo recently said about how much the rookie must learn before training camp begins in July, to be able to compete for a role at all.

Not necessarily a starting role, but a role.

It starts with communication and understanding of the pro system versus the scattered, up-tempo offense Corral drove on Ole Miss.

“Really, it’s like he’s trying to learn another language he has not spoken before,” McAdoo said. “There are verbal and visual cues he needs to know and learn. It’s going to take some time.”

While Darnold would be McAdoo’s starter if the season started today, the quarterback also has a lot to learn in a whole new system.

“In my mind, no one out there is ready to fight for a job, fight for a role,” McAdoo said.

McAdoo is not even willing to commit to what his offense will look like, except it will not be anything like the last two years under OC Joe Brady. And it may not look like what McAdoo ran in four seasons with the New York Giants as coordinator (2014-15) and head coach (2016-17) with double Super Bowl champion Eli Manning below center.

It was a quarterback-friendly system based on a power running game.

“The offense is going to look very different than likely [what I was] involved in the past, “McAdoo said.” That’s because our players are different. We will do our best to tailor it to the players we have. “

This is not an ideal situation heading into mini-camp from Tuesday to Thursday for Carolina, who have had seven different quarterbacks to start at least one game since 2018.

That’s why the Panthers keep opportunities – including a possible return from Cam Newton – open while trying to strengthen their position. And that’s why McAdoo was not ready to say whether Corral could be ready to challenge Darnold if he enters the season with them as his two top picks.

“So right now we just want to let things play out,” McAdoo said. “We want to teach, we learn, we want to communicate and see how the chips fall.”

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