Multiple teams are interested in the 28-year-old, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, but the finances are tricky.
Per Spotrac, the Panthers would still owe Bridgewater $10 million in the event of a trade, but they could push $5 million of that into 2022 if they deal him after June 1. Regardless, Bridgewater's new team would be on the hook for about $13 million next season, which isn't bad for a borderline starter with a career completion percentage of 66.5, a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 53-to-36 and a record of 26-23.
"We're going to find the right place [for Bridgewater], whether it's here or someplace else," Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer said last week, per The Athletic's Joe Person. The next day, Rapoport reported that the organization spoke with Bridgewater and "allowed him the opportunity to talk with teams to potentially facilitate a trade."
With all of that in mind and the Panthers prepared to—in the words of head coach Matt Rhule—"wait and see how things play out," let's look at prime potential destinations for the 2014 first-round pick.
Warning: It's a list that includes more than a quarter of the league. And you really can't totally rule out the Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Indianapolis Colts, Los Angeles Chargers, Los Angeles Rams, Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings, New York Giants, Seattle Seahawks, Tennessee Titans and Washington Football Team, all of whom could view Bridgewater as a worthwhile upgrade in the QB2 spot.
The price would probably be a little too steep considering other quarterback expenditures for those teams, but you never know. And even the Jets would make a lot of sense but weren't included because you'd think they would have just asked for Bridgewater as part of the Darnold trade.
Instead, we focused on the nine teams that seem the most obvious, with explanations provided for each.
Dallas saw its season go down the drain when Dak Prescott was injured in October, and it doesn't have a quality insurance policy in place after losing Andy Dalton on the free-agent market. The Cowboys wouldn't likely be Bridgewater's first choice considering that Prescott is locked in permanently as the QB1, but it's an attractive football environment and Jerry Jones could make a strong pitch.
Still, this ranks on the low end of the list because of Prescott's presence as well as the fact the Cowboys have less than $10 million in salary-cap space, according to Spotrac.
The Broncos have yet to land competition for young Drew Lock, but they've made no secret of the fact that they're seeking it. New Broncos general manager George Paton worked in the Vikings front office when they drafted Bridgewater in 2014 and has plenty of cap space to make a deal work.
This, though, is more likely to be a post-June 1 move because the Broncos might want to wait to see if they lose a game of quarterback musical chairs in the first round of the draft.
This all depends on what happens with Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, who is facing 22 civil lawsuits accusing him of sexual assault or misconduct and was seeking a trade before those accusations became public. The Texans have to realize there's a good chance Watson will not be their starting quarterback come Week 1, which could cause them to bring in competition for veteran Tyrod Taylor.
Taylor is a relatively new addition, though, and so much is up in the air with Watson that the cap-strapped Texans will likely wait until we're well beyond the draft before considering alternatives.
New England Patriots
This would also likely only come later if/when the Patriots come out of the draft without competition for veteran Cam Newton. Bill Belichick might want something better than Jarrett Stidham in support of Newton, especially because the Patriots have signaled this offseason that they're going all-in in an attempt to get back into the Super Bowl picture in 2021.
Bridgewater, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and Las Vegas Raiders backup Marcus Mariota would all make a lot of sense for New England to pursue, and even after a March spending spree, they have more than $20 million in cap space to make one of those things happen.
New Orleans Saints
The Saints were Bridgewater's last employer before he jumped to Carolina last offseason. And although they brought back Jameis Winston to work with Taysom Hill at the start of the post-Drew Brees era, they could be tempted to add Bridgewater back and create a hearty competition among several intriguing quarterbacks.
Money was an issue earlier this offseason for New Orleans, but the Saints did some major work and are now above the league median in terms of cap space. The only other question is whether the Panthers will want to deal Bridgewater within the division.
Philly indicated it might be all set with Jalen Hurts when it traded out of the No. 6 overall pick and the addition of veteran Joe Flacco might take the Eagles out of the Bridgewater sweepstakes anyway. But the Eagles do have some salary-cap wiggle room now and Bridgewater's a more viable challenger to Hurts than the 36-year-old Flacco.
At this point, it's tough to rule anything out with the unpredictable, potentially unstable Eagles.
Ben Roethlisberger is 39 and the Steelers continue to lack the draft capital to secure a blue-chip potential long-term replacement for him under center. Dwayne Haskins and Mason Rudolph are also on the roster, but it's hard to get excited about either of those guys at this point.
Bridgewater would be a much more reliable option in a pinch during a Super Bowl-or-bust 2021 season and he'd have a chance to win the job if Big Ben retires in a year. Considering that the Steelers suddenly rank sixth in the league in salary-cap space, he might be worth a shot.
San Francisco 49ers
We all know the 49ers will draft a quarterback third overall and they've said they might hold onto Garoppolo as a bridge. But why pay Jimmy G $26.4 million when you can cut or trade him at a cost of just $2.8 million and bring in Bridgewater for less than half of that $26.4 million total?
If I'm 49ers general manager John Lynch, I'm calling up the Panthers right now and offering one of my three fifth-round picks for Bridgewater. If they accept, you save a bunch of cash by swapping out one bridge for another at a relatively low cost in terms of draft capital.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Bucs head coach Bruce Arians told the media in September that Bridgewater was on the team's radar before it signed Tom Brady. Brady isn't going anywhere after winning his seventh Super Bowl in his debut season with Tampa Bay, but he's currently the only quarterback on the Bucs roster and Bridgewater would come a lot cheaper this time around.
Again, it's unlikely the Panthers trade Bridgewater within the NFC South unless they have no choice, but that's not an impossible scenario and you'd at least expect Tampa to be first in line if Bridgewater were to hit the open market.
I know what you're thinking: But Steve, what about trade compensation? First of all, dear reader, my name is Brad, not Steve. But more importantly, we're not looking at a king's ransom for the Panthers. We're talking about late-round draft capital.
Multiple teams may reportedly be interested in Bridgewater, but this will likely come down to timing. Who will wait for June 1? Or do the Panthers prefer to get it done before the draft? In which case, who will pull the trigger now? The other factor will simply be who is willing to pay up for a good-not-great quarterback who isn't widely considered a long-term franchise signal-caller, because Bridgewater doesn't come cheap by those standards.
Brad Gagnon has covered the NFL for Bleacher Report since 2012. Follow him on Twitter: @Brad_Gagnon.