No. 2: Jimmy Garoppolo to the Carolina Panthers
Unlike the G-Men, who could reasonably “blow the whole thing up” this offseason, the Carolina Panthers are arguably just a good quarterback away from legitimate contention within the NFC South.
They didn’t receive that after acquiring former New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold last offseason, and Darnold now finds himself benched as the No. 2 option on the depth chart following Carolina’s free-agent pickup of arguably its greatest superstar in franchise history, quarterback Cam Newton, who made his emotional return to Bank of America Stadium last week in a loss to the Washington Football Team.
That alone was a great story. But with Newton signed only through the rest of the year, it’s anyone’s guess whether or not head coach Matt Rhule wants to make Newton the long-term solution under center.
It might be popular with the fans, but it’s just as plausible for Rhule and the front office to explore replacement options for Newton and an upgrade over Darnold.
Darnold is signed through 2022 and not on the cheap, a would-be dead-money hit of $18.6 million if cut this offseason. Yet some modest roster jockeying could alter that situation, particularly if a team like Carolina is willing to “wait it out” with Jimmy Garoppolo and see if the 49ers are poised to merely let go of him, thereby opening the door for him to sign a new, cheaper contract than the one he’s currently scheduled to receive.