It’s official. The Cam Newton era is over in Carolina. The Panthers have decided to move on from Newton in favor of Teddy Bridgewater, signing the former-Saint to a three-year deal worth $63M total ($40M in guaranteed money). The move makes a lot of sense for both sides. For the Panthers, they get a relatively cost-controlled quarterback that won’t impact their ability to draft or sign another QB in 2021 while the team continues to rebuild. For Bridgewater, he gets another deserved chance to prove he’s a starter while reuniting with Panthers’ new OC Joe Brady. Bridgewater and Brady spent the 2018 season together when Brady was an offensive assistant for the Saints.
One thing is for sure: Brady and Bridgewater have a lot of firepower at the skill positions.
For the Panthers fantasy outlook as a whole, Bridgewater’s addition has to be seen as a slight upgrade. Kyle Allen was the NFL’s least capable quarterback not named Mitchell Trubisky last year and was woefully inaccurate when trying to push the ball down the field. Per PFF, Allen owned a league-worst 35.3 passer rating on throws of 20 or more yards last season. Literally just spiking the ball into the ground would have earned a passer rating of 39.6.
After breaking out for 87/1175/4 at 21 years old with one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL last year, DJ Moore enters 2020 as a locked-in, borderline WR1. Moore was the WR15 in PPR points in 2019 and was remarkably consistent every week, gaining at least 75 in 11-of-14 fully healthy games. I’m confident that Bridgewater can feed Moore.
On the other hand, Curtis Samuel was on track to be an intriguing post-hype sleeper in 2020 leagues, but the Panthers’ addition of Robby Anderson in free agency kills that momentum. Moore’s volume should be safe as the alpha receiver in the offense but Samuel and Anderson basically have the same role in Carolina’s attack. Last year, Anderson ranked tied for 12th in percentage of targets that were 20 or more yards downfield with Terry McLaurin (26%). Samuel ranked 14th, with 24% of his passing looks traveling 20+ yards.
Even though Samuel was disappointing last year (54/627/6; WR36 in fantasy), it was no fault of his own. Samuel saw an accurate pass on just 48.6% of his targets from Allen, which ranked dead last among the 45 total receivers and tight ends to see at least 100 targets last season. Unfortunately, now Samuel and Anderson both profile as boom-or-bust WR3s. I’m only going to be interested in drafting Samuel or Anderson in best-ball formats so I don’t have to try and get lucky picking the right spike weeks for either one.
Ian Thomas will join Noah Fant, Hayden Hurst, Mike Gesicki, Jonnu Smith, and Jace Sternberger as intriguing late-round tight end selections in 2020 draft rooms. All of these tight ends are extremely athletic and have flashed explosive ability, but Thomas likely has the most competition for targets here.
Bridgewater’s addition is especially great news for Christian McCaffrey’s 2020 outlook. Granted, this is a function of the Saints scheme (that Joe Brady is familiar with), but Bridgewater checked the ball down often in his five starts in place of an injured Drew Brees.
On 196 pass attempts, Bridgewater ranked last in air yards per attempt (6.1) and targeted his running backs on 29% of his throws (2nd-most). A league-high 55.1% of Bridgewater’s passes traveled less than 10 yards in the air. McCaffrey’s targets have increased in three-straight seasons so far (113 > 124 > 142) and there is an outside chance he pushes 150 in 2020. CMC will be the no-brainer No. 1 overall pick in PPR leagues this summer.
While Bridgewater is certainly a downgrade from a healthy Cam Newton, he should be able to manage games far better than Allen did in 2019. Bridgewater likely won’t be a high-upside fantasy QB in 2020 — but he’ll be able to move the ball downfield efficiently and get the rock to CMC, Moore, and Samuel. At the very least, the Panthers QB room has drastically improved this offseason. In addition to signing Bridgewater, Carolina added XFL star PJ Walker and traded dead-weight Allen to Washington (in exchange for a 5th-round pick).