Matt Rhule Says Panthers Can Go Best Player Available After Darnold Trade

The Carolina Panthers have new opportunities once they acquired Sam Darnold last week. Prior to making a deal for the former top-3 pick, upgrading the quarterback position was the main priority for the offseason.

Carolina made an attempt to trade for Matthew Stafford and Deshaun Watson, but neither of those panned out. Darnold, at only 23 years old, was a nice consolation prize. He isn't established like the other two, but he still has potential.

And the best part ... the Panthers didn't have to part with the No. 8 pick in order to make the upgrade. If they had managed to make a deal for Stafford or Watson, that 2021 first-rounder would certainly have been included in it. Instead, the team can use the pick as a way to upgrade the roster somewhere else.

Head coach Matt Rhule said as much during a recent Zoom call. The trade allows Carolina to go after the best player available at No. 8.

"We'll look at anything and everything,'' he said, via ESPN. "We recognize maybe there are positions we'd like to address in the draft, either via draft-day trades, post-draft trades or in the draft. I do think with the eighth pick, you take the best available player. Now, if two guys are close, you take the guy that fits your need as well.''

Their two most obvious needs are at offensive tackle and cornerback. Patrick Surtain II of Alabama and Caleb Farley of Virginia Tech are the top two corners in the draft, but their value doesn't exactly line up with Carolina. Penei Sewell or Rashawn Slater make perfect sense, though.

Their top priority should be to give Darnold the best chance to succeed. They've made an investment, so they should do what needs to be done in order to protect it.

Follow Clint Lamb on Twitter @ClintRLamb.