New Orleans Saints quarterback Teddy Bridgewater

What do the Carolina Panthers look like with Teddy Bridgewater?

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  • nfl free agency
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By Jordan Katz March 22, 2020 0 Comment
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Moving on from Cam Newton and signing Teddy Bridgewater. What is the plan for the Carolina Panthers for the 2020 season and beyond?

One of the biggest moves in Free Agency was the Carolina Panthers adding Teddy Bridgewater. With the Panthers moving on from Cam Newton, they had to find a starter for 2020. There is no question that Teddy Bridgewater is a quality game manager for 2020 and beyond. At one point in time, Bridgewater was the starting quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings. That came to an end in 2016 when he would suffer a grueling injury during practice in the preseason. Bridgewater suffered a dislocated knee, a torn ACL, and other structural damage that day.

Since then, Bridgewater has not led his own team. He’s been the backup to New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees the last couple of years. He started five games in 2019 while Brees was out with an injury winning all five. Now he is getting another chance to lead his own team after signing with the Panthers.

What are the Panthers plans here? Do they believe that Bridgewater is the kind of quarterback they can win a championship with? Is Bridgewater a… bridge… to their next franchise quarterback? What impact will Bridgewater have on the offense in 2020?

There are a lot of questions that still remain in Carolina. Let’s dissect a few of them and see if there is a logical conclusion as to what Carolina intends to do in the future.

What is Bridgewater’s impact on the 2020 season?

Honestly, it’s not much. While Bridgewater is an ideal fit in Carolina, he does not make them a playoff team. It is true that Bridgewater is perfect for their short passing attack. Bridgewater will get the ball out of his hands quickly, and into the hands of their playmakers.

In addition, Bridgewater is a quality play-action quarterback. He was successful last season filling in for Drew Brees in New Orleans because of their scheme. Bridgewater completed passes at a high rate, and he was able to limit his turnovers. The Saints use an up-tempo, short game passing attack to keep defenses off-balance. Carolina has weapons built for a similar style offense. Expect Joe Brady and Matt Rhule to put Bridgewater in a position to succeed.

Nevertheless, Bridgewater’s limitations prevent him from making a massive splash. He lacks a big arm, struggles to push the ball down the field, and whether or not he can make an offense better remains to be seen. Also, there will be a lot of pressure on his shoulders because of the way the Panthers’ front office handled this offseason.

By running Cam Newton out of town, the Panthers have put Bridgewater in a difficult spot. If he does not elevate the Panthers’ passing attack, Carolina fans might expect the team to go in a different direction in 2021.

This leads us to our next question…

Does the signing of Teddy Bridgewater impact the Panthers’ future draft strategy?

For 2020, it certainly does. Bridgewater signing a three year, 63 million dollar deal means that the Panthers are out on a quarterback in this year’s draft. However, next year is an entirely different story. According to Spotrac, Bridgewater is a logical cap cut in 2022 if this deal does not work out.

Assuming the Panthers season did go south next year, they could select Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields and open up a quarterback competition. Even if Bridgewater was a highly paid backup, it would only be for one season.

Let’s assume Bridgewater has a quality season. In this scenario, the Panthers could still select a quarterback in 2021. Bridgewater’s contract is clearly a two-year deal. Restructuring the deal to make him a backup would not be that challenging. Carolina can extend his third year, break up the money, and turn him into a high paid backup.

Unless Teddy Bridgewater magically leads the Panthers to a deep playoff run, a quarterback is still on the table in a future draft. Frankly, even if he does get Carolina to the postseason, they still could select one the following year. Bridgewater is already 28 years old. When you combine that with his style of play, this move is nothing more than a quick fix.

Will Bridgewater make the Panthers a playoff team in 2020 and beyond?

In short, no. The longer answer is more complicated. Bridgewater makes the Panthers offense better. Carolina won five games last year with Christian McCaffrey carrying them to wins, literally and figuratively. Getting solid quarterback play should help the Panthers offense become more dynamic in 2020.

The problem is, the Panthers are the third-best team in their own division. Keep in mind, that’s also being optimistic. Tampa Bay just added the greatest quarterback of all time, and New Orleans is still loaded. Even if the Panthers do improve in 2020, they might peak at 8-8.

Subsequently, this becomes the problem with the Bridgewater signing. Mediocrity is the death of sports franchises. Seeing as how Bridgewater makes the Panthers better, but not by enough to make the playoffs, will they take themselves out of the running for the elite young quarterbacks in next year’s draft?

How can Teddy Bridgewater become a successful contract?

The first answer is to make the playoffs in one of the next two seasons. By doing this, the Panthers will be validated in their choice of Bridgewater over Newton. Truth be told, this should not be a conversation. Bridgewater’s best football might be ahead of him. Whereas Newton’s best football is most certainly behind him.

Carolina fans are not truly on board with this move. Therefore, if Bridgewater does open up their passing attack by getting the ball into the hands of McCaffrey, D.J. Moore, and Curtis Samuel, it will prove the Panthers’ front office knew what they were doing. Bridgewater was 5-0 last season, and he did make the playoffs in his last full year as a starter.

Having said that, Bridgewater hasn’t been a starter for an entire season since 2015. His mobility is not what it once was before the injury in 2016. When you combine that with his less than stellar arm strength, Bridgewater could easily flop. The Panthers offensive line is also less than impressive on paper.

Would a massive nosedive in 2020 make this contract a failure?

It actually would not. Bridgewater has shown the ability to start in a pinch. Failing over the course of a full season with a roster that is lesser than his roster in New Orleans proves nothing. Bridgewater is still one of the best backup quarterbacks in the NFL.

Plus, you cannot consider a scenario “bad,” when it lands you Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields.

What way would make the Bridgewater contract a failure?

Mediocrity. If the Panthers offense propels them to a .500 record in 2020, that is bad. It would keep them out of the postseason, while simultaneously taking them out of the running for a rookie quarterback in 2021. Now the Panthers are rolling with Bridgewater for at least another season.

Let’s say that next season is more of the same. Now you have a dilemma on your hands. Can you build a roster around what would be a 30-year-old Teddy Bridgewater? Will his play level stay high enough when his arm deteriorates? He already lacks in arm strength. What if it gets worse as he ages?

Believe it or not, Carolina is better served to be bad in 2020 then they are being a competitive .500 ball club.

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