Panthers trade QB Bridgewater to Denver Broncos day before NFL Draft

CHARLOTTE — The Carolina Panthers announced Wednesday that they have traded quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to the Denver Broncos in exchange for a 2021 sixth-round draft pick.

The move clears the way for the Panthers’ new QB Sam Darnold, who the team acquired from the New York Jets earlier this month.

According to NFL Network reporter Tom Pelissero, the deal has been in the works for a few weeks as the teams negotiated financial terms.

Bridgewater started 15 games for the Panthers last year, missing one with a knee injury.

Bridgewater also received the NFL’s Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award last year, which recognizes a player for their on-field sportsmanship qualities.

With the trade, the Panthers now have eight picks in the 2021 NFL Draft: eighth overall, 39th, 73rd, 113th, 151st, 191st, 193rd and 222nd.

>> Channel 9 is your pick for complete Panthers NFL Draft coverage. Sports Director Phil Orban will be LIVE in Cleveland to break down what you need to know about the newest players. Our coverage kicks off at 7 p.m., with the draft starting at 8 p.m.

“Acquiring Teddy Bridgewater adds competition, experience and a strong veteran presence to our quarterback room,” Denver GM George Paton said. “He’s a talented player and leader who’s had success in this league in a number of different situations. Being familiar with Teddy from Minnesota, he’s going to compete and do everything he can to help us win.”

Bridgewater became available when the Panthers traded for former Jets QB Sam Darnold three weeks ago.

Bridgewater went 4-11 as the Panthers’ starter last year and struggled to win close games down the stretch. He completed 69.1% of his passes, throwing 15 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions.

Bridgewater has a 26-23 career record as a starter over his six seasons in Minnesota, New Orleans and Carolina.

The Broncos have struggled for years to find a suitable replacement for Peyton Manning, who retired a month after Denver’s 24-10 win over Carolina in Super Bowl 50 and is headed to the Pro Football Hall of Fame this summer.

Manning’s induction in Canton, Ohio, further highlights the franchise’s serpentine search for a competent successor.

The Broncos are the first team in NFL history to go five years without a playoff appearance following a championship parade, and they’ve had four consecutive losing seasons for the first time since ending a decade-long stretch of sub-.500 records in 1973.

Among the washouts were first-round bust Paxton Lynch, the worst pick in former GM John Elway’s tenure, trade dud Joe Flacco, and free agent flop Case Keenum.

It was widely believed Bridgewater wouldn’t become available until after the draft and maybe wouldn’t join a new team until June. But, according to the NFL Network, the Panthers agreed to pay a portion of Bridgewater’s salary in 2021.

Bridgewater’s three-year, $63 million contract signed last year calls for him to make $10 million guaranteed and up to $7 million more in 2021.

The Panthers have the eighth overall pick in the draft and with Darnold in the fold can target other areas of need including offensive tackle, linebacker, tight end or cornerback.