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5 Sam Darnold trade scenarios from the Carolina Panthers

Vincent Frank

Sam Darnold was the No. 2 quarterback on the field for the Carolina Panthers behind Baker Mayfield as they opened up their preseason against the Washington Commanders last weekend.

This was a harbinger of things to come with Carolina naming Mayfield its starting quarterback on Wednesday. It has left Darnold’s future in Carolina up in the air as he enters his contract season.

With P.J. Walker and rookie Matt Corral on the roster behind Mayfield, there might not be any room for Darnold and his contract in the Panthers’ QB room.

Sure said contract could be a deterrent when it comes to teams showing interest in Darnold. But he’d still be a valuable backup quarterback should Carolina move off the former top-three pick. With that in mind, we look at five ideal trade scenarios for the struggling 25-year-old Sam Darnold.

Related: Ranking NFL QBs heading into 2022 season

Sam Darnold heads back to the AFC East

new england patriots trade for sam darnold
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

After a stellar rookie season, Patriots quarterback Mac Jones has hit that proverbial wall thus far in training camp. He’s struggled picking up additions to the watered-down offensive scheme Bill Belichick and Co. installed a season ago. In short, New England’s defense has dominated the former Alabama star at nearly every turn this summer. Jones has even owned up to these struggles.

“I’m going to figure it out. I always have. I always will. At the end of the day, you’re going to have your ups and downs with anything new, but I’ve learned a lot of different systems and the guys around me have too.

New England Patriots QB Mac Jones earlier in training camp

Bringing in Darnold wouldn’t be a case of the Patriots creating competition for Jones. He’s their unquestioned starter. Rather, it would be all about lighting a fire under the young signal caller while finding an upgrade over Brian Hoyer at QB2.

  • Sam Darnold contract: $18.86 million salary in 2022; free agent in 2023

As noted above, this contract is somewhat of an issue. New England currently finds itself $4.47 million under the cap. It would require Carolina eating a whole lot of Darnold’s salary while sending a mid-round selection to the Panthers. Is that worth it? We’re not too sure.

Related: Sam Darnold and NFL’s highest-paid QBs of 2022

Las Vegas Raiders bring in experienced backup

sam darnold trade to the las vegas raiders
Danielle Parhizkaran/NorthJersey.com via Imagn Content Services, LLC

New Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels was one of the central figures who helped them acquire Jarrett Stidham from his former New England Patriots squad. The idea was to get someone with familiarity to back up the recently-extended Derek Carr. Outside of that, Vegas has veteran journeyman Nick Mullens and undrafted rookie free agent Chase Garbers on the roster.

It’s not yet known whether the Raiders would view Darnold as an upgrade over Stidham or Mullens. What we do know is that they’ve shown interest in a player by the name of Colin Kaepernick who has not suited up in an NFL game since New Year’s Day of 2017. There’s seemingly a need here.

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Sam Darnold lands with the Los Angeles Rams

sam darnold trade, los angeles rams
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

There has to be some concern for the defending champs relating to Matthew Stafford‘s status for Week 1 and moving forward.

Immediately after signing a contract extension with Los Angeles this past offseason, information came out of Southern California that Stafford is dealing with bad tendinitis in his throwing elbow and has been put on a pitch count. Rams head coach Sean McVay did not quiet fears that this could linger for some time.

“It’s a little bit abnormal for a quarterback, some of this stuff is things that MLB pitchers deal with, so it is something that we’re kind of learning about on the fly and his feedback.”

Sean McVay on Matthew Stafford injury

General manager Les Snead has made all the right moves to keep Los Angeles’ championship window alive. Is the always-active front office head going to be alright with John Wolford and Bryce Perkins acting as Stafford’s backups heading into Week 1 against the Buffalo Bills? At the very least, Darnold would be seen as an upgrade over those two.

Related: Sportsnaut’s updated NFL power rankings

Dallas Cowboys find Dak Prescott proven backup

sam darnold trade, dallas cowboys
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Cooper Rush played well in limited action in Dak Prescott’s stead a season ago. In fact, he defeated the Minnesota Vikings in his only career regular-season start. With that said, we’re talking about a six-year veteran who has thrown all of 50 regular-season passes in his career. He also struggled in Dallas’ preseason opener against Denver.

Sure Dallas’ Super Bowl aspirations would go down in flames if Prescott were to miss extended time. But Jerry Jones and Co. could use some insurance in case his injury issues pop up again. Darnold has experience despite his struggles.

Sam Darnold stats (2018-21): 60% completion, 10,624 yards, 54 TD, 52 INT, 76.9 QB rating

If Dallas could acquire Darnold on the cheap while having Carolina pick up most of his contract, this trade would make a ton of sense.

Houston Texans trade for Sam Darnold

houston texans trade for sam darnold
Griffin Zetterberg-USA TODAY Sports

Houston’s brass has been vocal in its support of rising second-year quarterback Davis Mills. It pushed back against acquiring both Mayfield and Jimmy Garoppolo after moving off Deshaun Watson. The team is in full-scale rebuild mode. Why would it even entertain the idea of acquiring Darnold and his contract?

Well, it’s rather simple. Davis lacks experience and is an unknown quantity. Houston also has an ability to pick up a majority of Darnold’s contract. In turn, it could actually demand a couple draft picks in order for Carolina to unload said contract. It would help with the rebuilding process.