Thanks to a slew of injuries and a new head coach, the Falcons were finally rid of Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton in 2020. Before Cam, the 2015 MVP, the Falcons only had to worry about defending Jake Delhomme, and briefly, Jimmy Clausen. Cam was obviously a much different player to defend.
In 2020, the Panthers replaced Newton with Teddy Bridgewater, another quarterback closer to Clausen or Delhomme in that he was never going to flirt with elite status. While he enjoyed statistically his best season, Bridgewater still managed a mere 3,733 passing yards and 15 touchdowns.
Those numbers are nothing to scoff at and Bridgewater is a good player, but the Panthers either need to upgrade on Bridgewater or put together an elite defense if they want to make a leap. It sounds like they are shooting for the former.
Carolina has reportedly been heavily involved in discussions for Deshaun Watson, a player almost certain to cost significant, significant draft capital. Assuming the Texans even allow Watson to leave.
The Panthers were also offering at least a first-round draft pick for Matt Stafford. Per one report, that included this year’s 8th overall selection. This was obviously a failed attempt, however, it shows their strong interest in a big upgrade. And a strong interest in not waiting around to find that elite quarterback.
The team’s strong interest is a good reminder that this is a new chapter with the Panthers. In the last year, they have added a new head coach, a new general manager, and even a new owner. Matt Rhule came in with a lot of fanfare and a shocking seven-year, $60 million deal. The same goes for new owner David Tepper. He is one of the richest owners in the league, assuming the hedge fund manager did not short GameStop and now has the bankroll of a standard blogger.
For the Falcons, this is a reminder that at no point will the NFC South be a cakewalk. Drew Brees is almost certain to retire. Sean Payton will remain and he will certainly be coaching another top offense. Tom Brady and the Buccaneers will head to the Super Bowl. The Panthers are doing everything they can do to add a top quarterback that Atlanta will have to defend twice a year. Expect them to be involved in any and every top quarterback, whether trade, free agency, or even a trade up (above the Falcons) in the draft.
Things will not be getting easier for the Falcons regardless of their coaching staff.