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Carolina Panthers QB Sam Darnold open to playing elsewhere, here are 3 ideal landing spots

Jason Burgos

Carolina Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold has a lot of confidence in himself, and although the team may not be sold on him as their starter for next season, he believes he has what it takes to excel on the Panthers, or any other team.

After three shaky to disappointing seasons with the New York Jets, the third pick in the 2018 draft was shipped to Carolina last year. The assumption was that a change of scenery could bring out the best in the former USC star. However, year one under head coach Matt Rhule offered up more of the same from the 24-year-old.

With a top-six pick in this month’s draft, the Panthers are doing their due diligence on the QB class to see if an upgrade in the short and long-term is available. Despite his spot at the top of the depth chart being in danger, Darnold believes he is a good NFL QB. He said as much during a recent guest spot on the Bussin’ with the Boys podcast and he admits if the Panthers don’t see it, he is confident another team in the league will.

“It truly is like whatever happens happens, because at the end of the day, it’s out of my control, and I know that,” Darnold said. “I have enough security in myself to where I can be like, ‘I know I’m a good quarterback. I know I can be a good quarterback in this league. I’ve proved it.’ And I know there’s a team, if something happens, that would want me.”

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It will be very difficult for the organization to move Darnold since he has nearly $19 million left in the final year of his rookie deal. Also, the market for QBs is not as strong as it was a month ago. However, there are a few teams with the cap space and need to possibly take a flier on him. Here are three ideal fits for a Sam Darnold trade.

Cleveland Browns need to trade Baker Mayfield

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Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

While Baker Mayfield reportedly isn’t interested in a trade to Carolina, sooner or later he will have to come to the realization that he should go to the Panthers or head into 2023 free agency after a year of serving as an unhappy backup to Deshaun Watson on the Cleveland Browns. On several levels, a Darnold for Mayfield swap makes a lot of sense.

The money in their contracts makes both hard to trade, however, since they will earn similar money in the upcoming season, they fit as two sides of the same deal. The move gets a disgruntled player off the Browns while giving them a solid backup. For the Panthers, they get a legitimate upgrade at their most important position in a player with something to prove. It seems like a no-brainer with both QBs in the final years of their contracts.

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Texans offer Sam Darnold an opportunity and Carolina Panthers a trade partner with cap space

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Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

There are some in the league, and in the Houston Texans front office, that feel there is serious upside in second-year quarterback Davis Mills. However, he is far from a proven commodity, and having strong depth at the position is never a bad thing.

  • Sam Darnold stats (2021): 2,527 passing yards, 9 TDs, 13 INTs, 71.9 rating

The Texans are one of the few teams in the league that can fully take on Darnold’s contract. With much of the best free-agent players off the board and only affordable options left in the draft, it would not be a bad idea for Houston to bring in Darnold for one season as a strong second option, in the event Mills backslides in his second season in the league.

Seattle Seahawks will have a QB competition in camp

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Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll has stated he expects the team to have an open QB competition in training camp. Even if they re-sign last season’s backup Geno Smith. At this point in his career, the eight-year veteran Smith is a known commodity and isn’t getting any better. Drew Lock, the player the team got back in the Russell Wilson trade is a work in progress. However, there is still a small chance Darnold could be turned into a high-level NFL starter.

Being able to toss passes at a dynamic receiver combo in Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf could go a long way in helping Darnold deliver on his potential. The team might need to do some cap massaging to add him to the team, but Carroll — a former Trojans coaching legend — helping to rehabilitate a USC alum just feels right.