Mailbag: Are Panthers satisfied with Bridgewater? Is he a better option than Cam Newton?

Alaina Getzenberg, Jonathan M. Alexander
·10 min read

The Carolina Panthers had to wait a long time, but the Week 13 bye finally rolled around.

Sitting at 4-8, the Panthers are largely out of the playoff picture, but there will be plenty to watch for over the final four games and as they head into the offseason with contracts to sort out and a draft to prepare for.

Let’s get into your bye week questions.

What are the most needed positional upgrades for next season? Panthers still haven’t come close to finding a replacement for Greg Olsen - @zeans

You’re right. Tight end Ian Thomas hasn’t performed to the level the coaching staff was hoping for. He has 13 catches for 97 yards and a touchdown this season.

And for that reason, I think tight end will be one of the positions the Panthers try to target in the 2021 draft.

The Panthers also need a middle linebacker because Tahir Whitehead has not worked out.

They need a cornerback because there is limited depth there; a pass-rushing defensive tackle because Kawann Short is 31 and has missed most of the last two seasons due to shoulder injuries; a left tackle because Russell Okung is on a one-year contract and is 31; and possibly a right tackle if they can’t re-sign right tackle Taylor Moton, who should command a huge contract this offseason. And quite frankly, he deserves it. — JMA

Is it possible to pay Taylor Moton, Curtis Samuel and DJ Moore (next year) while also having CMC and Bridgewater/Anderson (for 1 more year at least) and fit under the cap without compromising the future, considering that the D is young and maybe an LT and/or QB also will be under a first contract? - Fernando Aguiar

It’s possible, sure. But I think it is unlikely.

Most of the answer to that question will come down to what the cap situation looks like next year, which is an unknown. For the first time since the 2011 lockout year, it is expected to decrease, but the exact number has not yet been determined. It’s going to limit some of what teams can do and the contracts that they can offer players.

The Panthers have plenty of building to do and areas to address. It helps that the defense will be built around plenty of young pieces from this past year’s draft and the one to come. Not everyone will be re-signed, but it’s possible to keep some talent around while also growing. It may just be more difficult this offseason than before. — AG

Good call or bad call to move on from Cam Newton? - @HampDellinger

Before the season, I probably would have said it was not a good call. But looking at it now, I think it was the right decision. This might not be a popular opinion with fans, but hang with me. Think about it.

Newton had one more year left on his contract, and it would have been a “prove-it year.” But if you look at how he’s played this year, I doubt the Panthers would have re-signed him. And they would have been looking for another quarterback this offseason.

At least with Bridgewater, he’s signed through 2022. He hasn’t been bad. He hasn’t been great, either.

But statistically, he’s been better than Newton. And if he’s not the answer for the Panthers’ long-term future (I don’t believe that question has been answered yet), the Panthers have him for two more years.

If you compare Bridgewater’s numbers to Newton’s, he’s out performing him. Now mind you, Bridgewater has better weapons even without McCaffrey. But Newton has been too inconsistent this season.

Through 10 games, Newton has nine rushing touchdowns, he has completed 66% of his passes for 1,984 yards passing. However, he has four passing touchdowns and nine interceptions. His passer rating is 79.8.

Through 11 games, Bridgewater has completed 70.2% of his passes for 2,819 yards passing, 14 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He also has three rushing touchdowns, and his passer rating is 96.3.

If you look at the other free-agent quarterbacks who were on the market, Bridgewater made the most sense. Tom Brady is 43. Phillip Rivers is 38. Jameis Winston has been mistake-prone, and couldn’t even win the backup quarterback job in New Orleans over Taysom Hill. The Panthers made the right decision at the right time. — JMA

Any idea where panthers may be leaning in draft now that playoff hopes are gone? Are they satisfied with Teddy beyond next season? @toddcrowell85

Bridgewater has played well at times and not so well at others. Any evaluation should wait until he has a full season under his belt.

With that in mind, the Panthers are set up to have a top-10 draft pick. Taking a quarterback has to be something that at minimum would be considered. I’ve long felt that if the right guy is available when the Panthers pick, they have to go for it.

It’s far too early to say what they will do with their draft picks, much of that depends on where they wind up picking and which players decide to declare early for the draft. Drafting a quarterback and having them learn behind Bridgewater is also an option.

One other note that I would add is to not rule out addressing the defense early in the draft just because they focused on it for all seven picks this year. There are positions they will be figuring out in the offseason, including defensive tackle, linebacker and corner. — AG

Any consideration to give PJ (Walker) and (Will) Grier end-of-year snaps? (If so, please start PJ immediately) @DraftMassta

There’s always a chance, but that isn’t really Matt Rhule’s style. Rhule has reiterated that winning is important and that whoever is best suited to play the position will play. There isn’t much of inclination to put players out there just to see how they’ll do (as seen in Greg Little watching from the sidelines).

The only situation I could see Walker or possibly Grier getting a chance would be if Bridgewater’s health is a consideration due to a new injury. Rhule has also said he doesn’t think he needs to see Grier in a game to know what he can do and they got a good look at Walker against the Detroit Lions.

The Panthers are still evaluating Bridgewater. Every snap is important. — AG

There’s a lot of talk of tanking for a draft pick but what do you feel is more beneficial for the team and fans, tanking or seeing a first-year coaching staff establish a culture of winning with a young roster? - @DanielFLacy

The latter; especially with the situation the Panthers are in.

The only time to tank is when you have a coach who is on his way out, when inevitable changes will be made and there needs to be a complete restart.

The Panthers have already restarted, and have young pieces such as Jeremy Chinn, Derrick Brown, Brian Burns, Christian McCaffrey and DJ Moore who will be a cornerstone for their future.

Rhule is trying to build a culture with the Panthers.

“A team that always fights and always battles,” Rhule said Monday.

Losing on purpose doesn’t represent that culture.

The Panthers are already in the running for a top-10 pick. In this situation, trying to win these games down the stretch would give them momentum in the offseason and some hope.

Losing won’t.

“We’ve unfortunately lost eight games this year. The two Tampa Bay games have not been good to us, but the other six losses were by 25 points — four points a game,” Rhule said. “That doesn’t make us feel better, but it tells us, in a year where we were picked to not be very good, a lot of people didn’t pick us to have more than 3 or 4 or 5 wins, we are closer and closer and closer each and every week.”

Tanking also doesn’t necessarily guarantee a team will be on the up and up. Just look at how long it took for the Cleveland Browns to be good. They haven’t been to the playoffs since 2002.

The Panthers aren’t in a bad situation for the future. Right now, they need to continue to build on their young defense, and learn how to win close games. — JMA

What guys do we think will get more chances this last month?(I.E Carter) What positions do we target in FA this year? - @erictrex94

As you pointed out, Eric, I think linebacker Jermaine Carter will continue to see more playing time as he’s done the past two games. He’s played well in his two starts and a big reason the Lions and Vikings haven’t been able to establish the run, as he made some nice tackles against Adrian Peterson and Dalvin Cook.

Rookie defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos will continue to see more time. They drafted him in the second round to be an immediate contributor, and he’s missed four games with various injuries. So he needs more time.

Other than that, I think the Panthers will continue to play their best players this season to try to win.

If offensive lineman Dennis Daley can get past his concussion, I think he could also see more playing time this season. The 2019 sixth-round draft pick has done a good job when healthy.

It’d be nice to see second-year left tackle Greg Little get a little more playing time, as he was drafted in the second round last year. But he was a healthy scratch last week, and that would seem to indicate that he hasn’t played well recently.

In regards to what positions the Panthers will target in free agency, if they don’t draft any of the positions mentioned in previous questions, that’ll likely be who they target in free agency.

However, I don’t see them spending a lot of money on a high-priced free agent, unless it is a quality left tackle. -JMA