Matt Rhule: Sam Darnold trade frees us up to take best player available at No. 8

Last week’s trade between the Panthers and Jets impacted Sam Darnold and Teddy Bridgewater directly, and the fallout from the deal sending Darnold to Carolina will continue to be felt in the first round of the draft.

Before the Darnold trade, the Panthers’ No. 8 pick was seen as a possible landing spot for a quarterback or a potentioal part of a trade package to get one. Now that the team has addressed the position, that outlook is a bit different.

Head coach Matt Rhule didn’t rule out taking a quarterback in the first round or any other time, but said at Monday’s press conference that the trade “frees us up to take best player available” later this month.

“We’ll look at anything and everything,” Rhule said, via ESPN.com. “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.”

Offensive tackle is one area the Panthers may be well positioned to address with the eighth pick, although it is unlikely to be the only one on the table given the flexibility provided by last week’s trade.