Teddy Bridgewater appears to be the odd man out in Carolina after the Panthers traded for Sam Darnold and picked up his fifth-year option, all but guaranteeing he would be first in line for a shot at the starting spot under center. Bridgewater was fine in 2020 in his first full year as the starter since his knees crumbled to dust all those years ago, and the fact that he managed to get to this point is a remarkable tale of perseverance in of itself. But the Panthers correctly recognized that Bridgewater tops out as an average starter and shouldn't be thought of as a long-term answer for the rebuilding team they are.
That doesn't mean Bridgewater couldn't be useful to another team in a different stage of team-building. We here at The Big Lead outlined four potential trade partners in the likely scenario Carolina shops Bridgewater a few weeks back. On Monday morning, Peter King touched upon the same subject in his FMIA column and pointed to the Denver Broncos as a possible destination:
Maybe one of those future picks for Carolina could come from Denver. Connecting dots here: What if new GM and Vikings transplant George Paton (in the room when Teddy Bridgewater was Minnesota’s first-round pick in 2014) passes on a quarterback in, say, the first three rounds and Bridgewater needs a home? Maybe Paton wouldn’t mind putting some veteran heat on Drew Lock. This was not my idea, but I think it makes a lot of sense, particularly if Carolina softens the cap blow by helping with the cash owed Bridgewater.
It does indeed make a lot of sense. Drew Lock showed some flashes last year (16 TDs, 2,933 yards in 13 games) but threw a league-leading 15 interceptions, a number that can't be totally explained by the absence of Courtland Sutton for most of the year or a so-so offensive line. Bridgewater was not significantly better (15 TDs, 3,733 yards in 15 games) but threw five fewer picks and put up all that without superstar Christian McCaffrey for the vast majority of the season. Preventing turnovers will be one of the major keys to Denver's playoff push in 2021; head coach Vic Fangio's defense came together near the end of the year and should be the backbone of the team going forward.
Bridgewater won't cost too much, and the worst-case scenario is that he doesn't beat out Lock in training camp and the Broncos have a reliable backup to turn to in the likely scenario Lock gets hurt again. The best-case scenario is that Bridgewater does beat out the incumbent starter, turns in a good low-turnover year with a better supporting cast, and helps the Broncos make a playoff push.
It makes too much sense not to happen if new GM George Patton likes Bridgewater, as King implies above. With Bridgewater in tow the Broncos can use their No. 8 overall pick to reinforce the defense with a top-tier corner or a versatile chess piece like Micah Parsons. They're likely out of the running for the top-four QBs anyway. Bridgewater represents the kind of low-cost and low-risk move that a team just a piece or two away from playoff contention like Denver should be all over.