Ever since the Carolina Panthers acquired Sam Darnold from the New York Jets, it's been pretty clear that the team is excited to have him on the roster.
However, Panthers fans may have to tame that excitement after conflicting reports have shown that the organization may not be ready to commit to Darnold beyond the 2021 NFL season.
Last week, CBS Sports reporter Jonathan Jones reported that the Panthers decided to pick up Darnold's fifth-year option. However, it seems that may not be the case. Panthers head coach Matt Rhule announced in a press conference on Monday that the team has yet to pick up Darnold's option.
According to Spotrac, Darnold could earn an estimated $18.8 million in 2022 if the team picks up his fifth-year option.
While the Panthers may love Darnold, they likely want to see how the draft shakes out before picking up the option ahead of the May 3 deadline. The fourth-year quarterback played 38 games with the New York Jets over his first three seasons, tallying 8,097 passing yards and throwing 45 touchdowns to 39 interceptions.
Those stats may seem underwhelming for a top-3 selection in the 2018 draft, but it's important to remember how bad the Jets have been over the last three years. They are 13-35 since 2018 and their poorly built offensive line was one of the reasons Darnold has already missed 10 games in his young NFL career. In fact, he was sacked 35 times in 2020 alone, which was the 9th-highest total for a quarterback despite him missing four games.
Fortunately, the Panthers seem more responsible in that regard and should give the 23-year-old a chance to recognize his full potential. However, if Darnold fails to impress, his tenure with Carolina could be short-lived.
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