On the morning after opening night of the 2021 NFL Draft, the Carolina Panthers finally pulled the trigger on picking up Sam Darnold's fifth-year option. This move guarantees the former New York Jets quarterback $18.9 million in 2022 after he earns $4.8 million through this coming season.
While before the Panthers were only halfway out the door on committing to Darnold as their next QB, it now appears the franchise has made it's decision.
But, things reportedly could've been a lot different given a potential move in last night's draft. According to ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter, Carolina considered taking quarterback Justin Fields with its No. 8 overall selection.
This decision would've certainly turned some heads and caused some intense QB room drama.
Instead of making a bold offensive move, the Panthers elected to take a more sensible approach and select top cornerback Jaycee Horn with their top-10 pick. Fields went off the board just three picks later when the Chicago Bears traded up to the New York Giants' No. 11 spot.
As of right now, Darnold has no competition for the starting job heading into the 2021 season. With 2020 starter Teddy Bridgewater traded to the Denver Broncos earlier this offseason, the remaining QB depth chart consists of PJ Walker (who through five interceptions through one start last year) and Will Grier (0-2 as a starter).
Declining to take Fields and picking up Darnold's fifth-year option, the team is putting plenty of stock in the former No. 3 overall pick as their QB of the future.