Opinion: Sam Darnold trade could have wide-ranging ripple effect on QBs in NFL draft

Another quarterback trade, and more ripples could follow in the first round of the NFL draft.

A little more than a week after the San Francisco 49ers jumped from the No. 12 spot to No. 3 by pulling off a blockbuster deal with the Miami Dolphins to ensure that they could select an elite passer in this year's draft, the Carolina Panthers seemingly have now bowed out of the 2021 quarterback sweepstakes. On Monday, the Panthers acquired Sam Darnold from the New York Jets in exchange for three draft picks – a sixth-round selection this year as well as second- and fourth-rounders in 2022.

Carolina desperately wanted to upgrade the quarterback position this offseason after starting Teddy Bridgewater in the fall. But the team's first choice seemed to be landing a veteran. The Panthers craved Deshaun Watson, per reports, but the Houston Texans’ unwillingness to trade him and the legal storm clouding his future threw a wrench into Carolina’s plans. The Panthers also had pursued Matthew Stafford but got outbid by the Los Angeles Rams, who landed the signal-caller in a January trade with the Detroit Lions.

The possibility had remained that Matt Rhule and Co. would either use the eighth overall pick on a quarterback or that they would put together a package to move up in the draft to avoid missing out on a top remaining prospect.

But with Darnold now in the fold, and with the team expected to pick up the fifth-year option on the 2018 No. 3 overall pick’s rookie contract, Carolina’s need for a quarterback has been filled.

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