Panthers, Broncos could still take quarterbacks at eight, nine

The Panthers traded for quarterback Sam Darnold, and they could still take a quarterback at No. 8. They have now traded a quarterback to the Broncos, who could still take one at No. 9.

By trading for Teddy Bridgewater the day before the draft, the Broncos acquire protection against not getting a quarterback at No. 9, if one of the quarterbacks they’d take isn’t there. Ditto for the Panthers, who previously bought protection against not getting a quarterback in round one by giving up a sixth-round pick this year and a fourth- and second-round pick next year for Sam Darnold.

It makes the decisions at No. 8 and No. 9 even more fascinating, if one or both of the quarterbacks who remain after the 49ers complete a three-for-three run to start the draft linger beyond No. 7. It also leaves the door open for the Broncos potentially hopscotching the Panthers in a deal with the Lions, if Justin Fields and/or Trey Lance remain through six picks.

With Bridgewater reducing his pay to $11.5 million and, in return, having his 2022 contract year wiped out, the Broncos could indeed keep him and draft a first-rounder for 2021 — especially since Denver is only paying $4.5 million of Bridgewater’s salary. The Panthers could do the same with Darnold, if they don’t pick up his 2022 option at $18.858 million.

It also remains possible that the Panthers will draft a quarterback at No. 8 and then try to flip Darnold to a new destination. It would make more sense, given that Darnold makes roughly $4.8 million this year, for Carolina to make him the starter while the rookie learns the ropes, if they end up drafting a quarterback with the eighth pick.

Regardless, neither team will be left holding the bag if they don’t get a first-round quarterback. The Panthers have Darnold, the Broncos have Bridgewater, and now both teams can let the board play out in front of them.