Carolina Panthers: Teddy Bridgewater primed for best season of career

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - OCTOBER 06: Teddy Bridgewater #5 of the New Orleans Saints throws the ball during the second half of a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the Mercedes Benz Superdome on October 06, 2019 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - OCTOBER 06: Teddy Bridgewater #5 of the New Orleans Saints throws the ball during the second half of a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the Mercedes Benz Superdome on October 06, 2019 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /

The Carolina Panthers have a new franchise quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater for the upcoming season.

For the first time since 2011 the Carolina Panthers will field a new franchise quarterback. Shortly after the free-agency period began in March the Panthers and Teddy Bridgewater agreed to a three-year, $63 million deal that includes $33 million in guaranteed money. Upon signing the former Vikings and Saints quarterback, Carolina released former MVP Cam Newton from the final year of his contract. The move saved the Panthers approximately $20 million in cap space; however, the move indicated a clear shift to the future.

Prior to joining the Panthers Bridgewater has spent time with the Vikings, Jets, and Saints.

Bridgewater, 27, was a first-round pick of the Vikings in 2014, and nearly led Minnesota to a playoff victory in 2015 had it not been for the infamous Blair Walsh missed field goal. In August of 2016 though Bridgewater suffered a catastrophic left knee injury that nearly required amputation. He would miss nearly all of the 2016 and 2017 seasons, but impressed so much in the 2018 preseason with the Jets that the Saints gave up a second-round pick in order to make him Drew Brees’ backup. In two years with New Orleans, Bridgewater appeared in 14 games, making six starts, passing for 1,502 yards with 10 touchdowns and three interceptions. In his career Bridgewater is 22-12 as a starter and is a former Pro Bowler.

Bridgewater is set up for perhaps the best season of his career.

Prior to suffering the career-altering knee injury back in 2016, Bridgewater was viewed as Minnesota’s quarterback of the future. The Dolphins reportedly offered him a chance to start last season, but he instead opted to return to New Orleans with the idea of being Brees’ successor. With all that being said, the Panthers aren’t making Bridgewater their starter for no good reason. He has one of the lowest interception rates in football, and has won critical games for both the Vikings and Saints. When Brees missed five games in 2019, Bridgewater stepped in and led New Orleans to a perfect 5-0 record, with road wins over the Seahawks and Bears.

It’s also worth noting that Bridgewater is a perfect fit with Carolina’s offensive weapons. He gets the ball out of his hands extremely quickly, which in turn allows the team’s playmakers to make plays in space. Wide receivers DJ Moore, Curtis Samuel, and Robby Anderson all excel in picking up yards after the catch, so a quarterback of Bridgewater’s style could be the desirable passer for the Panthers’ shifty receivers. It’s also worth noting that Saints running back Alvin Kamara thrived with Bridgewater on the field in 2019, and Christian McCaffrey is a similar (and even better) player. It hurts to see Newton go, but a smart, quick decision-making quarterback could be exactly what the Panthers’ offense needs to reach its full potential.

On top of all that, Bridgewater has familiarity with Joe Brady, the team’s new offensive coordinator. Brady was an offensive assistant in 2018 with New Orleans before calling plays for the national-champion LSU Tigers this past season. The combination of the intelligent, mobile quarterback with the bright, innovative mind of Brady could make for a huge opportunity for success in Carolina. The connection between the two was no doubt a reason the Panthers decided to bring in the 27-year-old quarterback, so the organization clearly has high hopes for Bridgewater in Brady’s system.

If Bridgewater plays well in 2020, it isn’t far-fetched to see him being the Panthers’ quarterback for the foreseeable future.

As mentioned above, the Panthers are undoubtedly hoping for success between Bridgewater and Brady. With that being said though, 2020 still figures to be a “prove-it” year for the former Saint. Carolina could theoretically cut Bridgewater prior to the 2022 season with little financial implications; however, the bigger threat to his tenure with the Panthers is the fact that quarterbacks Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields are elite-level prospects and are expected to be top-five picks in next year’s draft. As a result, if he fails to perform, he could be easily replaced in the near future.

Assuming he plays well though, it’s important to remember that Bridgewater is still relatively young at 27, and his body hasn’t taken a whole lot of wear-and-tear over the past few seasons. That being said, he may not even be in his prime yet. The quartet of Moore, Samuel, Anderson, and McCaffrey are perhaps the best arsenal of weapons Bridgewater has ever gotten to play with, and Brady should provide him with similar play-making opportunities that Sean Payton has afforded.

The Panthers are clearly bought in to their new quarterback and his abilities–at least in the short-term–so it’s fair to assume that they’ll give him everything he needs to succeed. Of course nothing can be certain until he plays, but on paper Bridgewater appears primed for the best season of his career in with a team that is being built for a quarterback of his skill-set.