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Czikk’s take: Could Matt Corral be the opening day starter?

Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer says Darnold is starter but the job is up for grabs

NFL: MAY 13 Carolina Panthers Rookie Minicamp Photo by David Jensen/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

If the Carolina Panthers’ third round pick and rookie quarterback Matt Corral takes over the starter’s job by Week 1, it sure would make for a big headline.

At least it’s a possible scenario from what we’re hearing from Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer.

While Sam Darnold is currently penciled into the starter’s role, that could change come September, Fitterer told Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio. He said that the rookie will play if he “gives us the best opportunity to win.”

“Sam is the number one guy right now,” Fitterer said. “He has every opportunity to take it and run with it. We hope he does well. We’ve seen improvement already under [offensive coordinator] Ben McAdoo. He’s working hard, he’s throwing the ball well. He’s just got to take it and run with it. He’s got to own the position. The one thing we’re looking to do is stabilize the position. It’s been up and down, up and down... He’s in the lead right now, but until someone really owns that position, gives us an opportunity to win, it will always be up for grabs.”

PFT noted that Darnold and the Panthers did start the season 3-0, but it didn’t last long.

“I thought he played really well even into the Dallas game,” Fitterer said of Darnold. “He played well in the first half. I think injuries, losing [Christian] McCaffrey did play a factor in it, but really it was the inconsistency of the offensive line. There was too much leakage up there. That was one priority going into this offseason, improving the offensive line. We brought in three new bodies that we think can come in and help us start. Drafted a left tackle here in the first round. I think that can only help the quarterback. With Sam when he has time, he delivered the ball [and] looked good, but when he didn’t have time, even when Cam Newton was here, he didn’t have time. It’s hard to play that position and it’s not solely on the quarterback, it’s on us. It’s on the whole offense but one of the big steps we did take was fixing that offensive line.”

Florio then asked Fitterer to generally discuss the possibility of trading for a veteran quarterback.

“I would say quarterback or any other position,” Fitterer said, “if there’s someone out there that we think can help us, we’ll keep our minds open. We have the money set aside to make several different moves and that was important for us to do. We want that flexibility but if someone can help us regardless of position, we’ll make a move at some point.”

You can watch the video interview with Fitterer over at PFT.

Switching gears, there was some Cam Newton chatter that recently surfaced. Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer told Florio in a separate article that the two sides are communicating:

“I think we’re still having thoughts. We have to see how this works out here throughout the spring. I just happened to be up at the [Kentucky] Derby last weekend and Cam was up there. We’re texting a little bit. The lines of communication are open. I know Coach Rhule has spoken with him. We are going to have a discussion at some point but we’re just not quite there yet, but we’ll see how it goes. The more competition we have at that position the better.”

Rhule also left the door open for Newton to return in March, telling reporters, “He’s an amazing leader. He’s an amazing football player. Everything we do has to be right for the organization, right for him.”