Jan 3, 2021; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule with quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (5) in the first quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Panthers permit odd man out Teddy Bridgewater to seek trade

Teddy Bridgewater went from QB1 to trade bait with the arrival of Sam Darnold in Carolina and has permission to shop himself to other teams.

According to multiple reports, the Panthers informed Bridgewater he can seek a trade following the acquisition of Darnold, the No. 3 pick in the 2018 draft, from the New York Jets on Monday.

A former first-round pick on his third NFL team, Bridgewater signed in free agency with Carolina last March and started 15 games for the Panthers. The team went 4-11 in those games and holds the eighth overall pick in the 2021 draft.

Bridgewater’s $23 million cap hit for the 2021 season and his pedestrian production could make a trade challenging.

Few teams who aren’t in position to draft a quarterback in the first round this season are unsettled at quarterback, but the Denver Broncos and New York Giants are thought to be considering veteran options.

The 28-year-old has appeared in 59 games since he entered the NFL out of Louisville in 2014.

The Panthers traded a package of draft picks for Darnold, who has two years, $23.6 million remaining on his rookie deal.

Previously a starter for the Minnesota Vikings and the primary backup to Drew Brees in New Orleans, Bridgewater replaced Cam Newton — who was released to avoid a cap hit over $20 million last spring — in head coach Matt Rhule’s first season with the team.

Bridgewater had 15 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 2021.

–Field Level Media

Jan 3, 2021; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold (14) throws the ball against the New England Patriots during the second quarter at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Jets trade Sam Darnold to Panthers

The New York Jets traded quarterback Sam Darnold to the Carolina Panthers on Monday in exchange for a sixth-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft and second- and fourth-round selections in 2022.

The Jets hold the No. 2 overall pick in this month’s draft. They are expected to take a quarterback, whether it be BYU’s Zach Wilson, Ohio State’s Justin Fields, North Dakota State’s Trey Lance or Alabama’s Mac Jones.

Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence is projected to be taken with the top overall pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars.

“I want to publicly acknowledge the commitment, dedication, and professionalism Sam displayed while with the Jets,” general manager Joe Douglas said. “He is a tough-minded, talented football player whose NFL story has not been written yet. While all these things are true, this move is in the short- and long-term best interests for both this team and him. We thank Sam for all of his work on behalf of this organization and wish him well as he continues his career.”

The move to acquire Darnold puts fellow quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s status in question with the Panthers.

Bridgewater, 28, threw for 3,733 yards with 15 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 15 games last season, his first with Carolina. He also rushed for 279 yards with five scores.

With the Jets, Darnold had ups, downs, injuries and illnesses since being selected with the third overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Darnold, 23, showed modest improvement from his rookie year to his second season. His touchdown total improved from 17 to 19, his interception total dropped from 15 to 13 and he completed a higher percentage of his passes (57.7 percent in 2018, 61.9 percent in 2019).

But in 2020, Darnold threw for a career-low 2,208 yards and nine touchdowns in 12 games (all starts). He completed 59.6 percent of his passes and was intercepted 11 times.

Darnold has thrown for 8,097 yards with 45 touchdowns and 39 interceptions in 38 games (all starts) in his first three NFL seasons.

–Field Level Media

Nov 15, 2020; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul (90) on the sidelines in the third quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Bucs’ Pierre-Paul fined $15K for hit on Bridgewater

Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul was fined $15,000 by the league for roughing Carolina quarterback Teddy Bridgewater in last week’s game, NFL Network reported Saturday.

Pierre-Paul’s sack of Bridgewater was borderline below the waist and Pierre-Paul was not penalized for the hit. Bridgewater suffered a knee injury on the fourth-quarter play that could keep him out of the Panthers’ game Sunday against the Detroit Lions. The Bucs defeated the Panthers 46-23.

Bridgewater is listed as questionable after having limited practices this week.

Other fines, per NFL Network:

The league also fined San Francisco 49ers safety Jimmie Ward $15,000 for his hit on New Orleans Saints wideout Tre’Quan Smith, who suffered a concussion; and Indianapolis Colts defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad was docked $10,500 for slapping Ty Sambrailo. Muhammad was ejected.

–Field Level Media

Five Players/Owners in the AFC East Who Are Involved With New Sports

Rob Gronkowski – TE New England Patriots
Tom Brady’s favorite target plays Call of Duty the same way he plays on the football field: Aggressively.
“I like to run right up on you when I play,” Gronk told Jon Robinson at ESPN, “I’m the type of gamer who wants to grab the shotgun and go looking for you. It’s just not me, it’s not my personality, to sit back somewhere and wait for the action to happen. I’m out there making things happen.”
He did that interview back in 2012 during the Modern Warfare 3 era of COD. Back then he called the graphics amazing, saying “it feels like you’re out there in real life.”
Since Modern Warfare 3 there have been six COD titles with the next – Black Ops 4 – set to release in October. If Gronk thought the graphics were good back then, COD WWII probably blew his mind as it is by far the most realistic title to date.
Robert Kraft – Owner New England Patriots
Kraft is one of the most recognizable owners in the league and is also one of the few who have bought into esports in a big way. When Blizzard created the Overwatch League and opened spots for regional franchises, they put a $20 million price tag on each spot in the league.
In doing so, they priced out all but the largest of the endemic esports organizations and it’s clear Blizzard was focused on getting traditional sports owners to buy into esports.
It worked. The OWL attracted ownership groups led by Andy Miller and Mark Mastrov from the Sacramento Kings, Jeff Wilpon from the New York Mets, and Ed Snider from the Philadelphia Flyers. It also included NFL owners Stan Kroenke and Kraft whose Kraft Group bought into the league and named the team the Boston Uprising.
The Uprising was a middle of the pack team most of the year but went on a tear in Stage 3 when they went undefeated through ten games. On the back of that performance they made the first Overwatch League playoffs and will face off against Snider and the Philadelphia Fusion in the first round beginning on July 11th.

Kiko Alonso – LB Miami Dolphins
The former Duck star – as an Oregon graduate I am obligated to mention the university when I can, it’s in the student handbook – Alonso has made a name for himself as one of the best linebackers in the NFL, despite battling injuries and trades throughout his five years in the league.
He has been on three different teams going from the Bills to the Eagles in exchange for LeSean McCoy (more on him later) and then to the Dolphins for a first round pick. When moving around so much, it can be hard to bond with teammates but when arriving in Miami, Alonso used Call of Duty to mesh with fellow linebacker Jelani Jenkins.
“We’ve been playing some ‘Call of Duty,’ Jenkins told ESPN’s James Walker. “We’ve actually gone out to eat a little bit. He lives right near me. He lives by the beach. We just hang out. We have a lot of time off with this phase, so we get a chance to just kick it.”
It’s a team-building exercise that is popular around the league with players on every team playing Call of Duty and most playing with their teammates.
Teddy Bridgewater – QB New York Jets
When he joined the Minnesota Vikings, Bridgewater began studying the playbook immediately. He did so by playing Madden with the Vikings playbook which he imported into the game. It was a strategy he also employed while at Louisville, and it seemed to work out well for him there.
“I try to take as many reps as I can, whether it’s on a video game, playing Madden or in the playbook, just drawing it or just visualizing it in my head,” Bridgewater said to ESPN’s Ben Goessling in 2014. “I try to just maximize every rep I can get and every opportunity that I can take.”
As he was recovering from his nasty injury in 2016, the closest Bridgewater could get to actual reps was through Madden. At the very least it allowed him to keep testing routes and make sure his field vision was still on-point.
Considering it’s a strategy he employed through his last two stops, he has likely already imported the Jets playbook into his game and is working through the new offense. He showed flashes of brilliance through his first two seasons in the NFL but now will join a crowded QB competition with Josh McCown and top pick Sam Darnold for the starting position in New York.
LeSean McCoy – RB Buffalo Bills
Even though Shady called out Kiko Alonso on Instagram after the two were swapped in a trade, they do share a commonality in bonding with their teammates over Call of Duty.
“[When I was the Eagles] we will all just link up, we call things out in game and that’s your teammate so you kinda bond with them while you play the game,” McCoy told The Post Game in this video.
McCoy was facing off against Bengals WR AJ Green in a Call of Duty: Ghosts grudge match during that video. They also faced off in Madden, which Shady won.
“I’ve been a fan [of COD] for so long. I’m not a big game guy but I get up for Call of Duty. Wherever I go I gotta have Call of Duty tucked away,” McCoy said in the video. “Madden update I beat [Green] so now I gotta figure I’ll beat him in COD.”
McCoy won the grudge match with a score of 4-1 but Green wasn’t taking the L sitting down.
“You cheating mayne, you been watching my screen,” Green said to McCoy, jokingly.
Anybody who has played video games against their friends knows the arguments screen-peeking can cause, and it’s true for these guys as well, they just happen to also have 13 combined pro bowls.
This is the sixth article in a series looking at the overlap of the NFL and esports. All the NFC divisions and the AFC West can be found here.

5 college reunions that could happen in the NFL Draft

1) Chip Kelly and Marcus Mariota
I imagine the Roseman/Kelly saga involved a conversation like this:
Roseman: Chip, where are the results?
Kelly: I just need the right guys! I told you, I need Oregon guys in the draft, and what do you give me?
Roseman: I did! I drafted Josh Huff and Taylor Hart!
Kelly: Yeah, no. I meant ALL Oregon guys. Give them all to me. They’re the only ones who truly understand me. Just let me do it next year.
This is the obvious one getting all the press, but Kelly’s love for Mariota (and many of his former players at Oregon) is well documented. With the 20th pick, it’s definitely a long-shot, but if Kelly isn’t sold on his current personnel, some of those pieces would be very attractive to some of the Top 5 teams. I’m looking at you Jags (McCoy?) and Titans (Foles?). Throw in a 3rd or a 4th, and it’s a deal. I don’t even like the Eagles, but it would be awesome to see Kelly’s offense take even 80% of the form it had in Oregon.
2) Teddy Bridgewater and DeVante Parker
If you put 2013 Bridgewater with 2014 Parker (who put up comparable numbers to his 2013 stats in half the games), I think Louisville has a better run than they did. Still, they were impressive together. Vikings’ GM Rick Spielman has already talked with Parker, and despite saying Bridgewater has nothing to do with it, it has to be tempting.
Look at these highlights. They’re like one singular mind, always knowing exactly where to place and find the ball.

3) Blake Bortles and Breshad Perriman
This would be a tough one to pull off. It would be insane to take him with the third pick with the other needs in Jacksonville (RB, OT, CB, etc..) and he might not last until the second round, but Perriman was Bortles favorite deep ball target at UCF. A trade down, or a trade back into the mid-to-late first might be worth it.
4) Teddy Bridgewater and Amari Cooper
This reunion is less talked about that Parker/Bridgewater, but the one that makes more sense for the Vikings. They played together at Miami Northwestern. Cooper is almost “uncoverable” in medium routes, an area where the Vikings were lacking in 2014. Parker is more of a deep threat. It comes down to whether Minnesota is convinced that Jarius Wright and/or Charles Johnson can become the primary long-ball target.
5) Jeremy Hill and Connor Neighbors
This is my sleeper pick. Hill had an impressive rookie year in Cincinnati averaging 5.1 yards per carry behind a sub-par line. The fullback is a dying breed in the NFL, and one I’d love to see resurrected. Watch this (at :46) or any number of Hill’s LSU highlights, and you’ll see Neighbors frequently paving the way. He’ll be available in the 6th or 7th round, so what have you got to lose?
Follow me on Twitter @erikoehler