Transferring up within the NFL Draft is rarely low cost. Leaping from No. 9 to No. 1 general prices a ton, and the Panthers paid it. The group despatched the No. 9 general choose, a primary spherical choose in 2024, WR D.J. Moore, and a second spherical choose in 2025 to the Bears and jumped as much as the highest choice.
The soccer world continues to be digesting the mammoth commerce that occurred in a Friday night information dump, however whereas everyone seems to be adjusting their boards and making an attempt to find out who “received” the deal it’s simple to lose sight of the truth that each groups will get monumentally higher in consequence — and what Carolina did was sensible contemplating their scenario.
It wasn’t way back that the Panthers appeared like a lock for the No. 1 choose within the draft. Carolina began the season 1-4, they’d simply fired Matt Rhule. Christian McCaffrey, the group’s finest offensive weapon was traded away, and rumors swirled about D.J. Moore and DE Brian Burns being on the block too. This was a group that appeared destined to blow all of it up, tank their solution to the underside, and rebuild all the things.
As an alternative, interim head coach Steve Wilks confirmed the expertise the Panthers had, however Rhule was too inept to harness. Regardless of inheriting one of many worst quarterback rooms within the NFL and missing any weapons on offense outdoors of Moore, Wilks dragged Carolina to a 6-6 document that flipped the script on the season, turning it from a race to the underside, to a probably hilarious playoff run towards within the odds within the hapless NFC South.
The explanation that playoff run didn’t materialize: Quarterback play. Controlling their very own future for the ultimate 5 weeks of the season, the Panthers struggled to attain by the air, and in two crucial video games towards the Steelers and Buccaneers, each of which might have despatched Carolina to the playoffs, the group needed to accept a mixed 4 4th quarter discipline objectives that sealed their destiny.
Have been the Panthers good? No. Have been they a quarterback away from profitable the NFC South? In all probability.
Aspiring to be one of the best of the worst isn’t the best, but when there’s one factor the short-lived Wilks period confirmed it was that this group was too good to explode solely. D.J. Moore, whereas sensible, couldn’t throw the ball to himself, and his 1,000+ yard seasons couldn’t translate into sufficient wins. Taking part in their approach into the ninth general choose put Carolina in a lurch.
They actually had three choices, and none of them have been best:
- Spend the little cap area that they had on a beginning free agent quarterback like Derek Carr.
- Punt on 2023 and attempt to suck their solution to the underside once more with Sam Darnold
- Commerce up within the draft
The third choice was at all times the one which made probably the most sense for the Panthers. New head coach Frank Reich assembled a employees customized constructed to help a rookie quarterback. Quarterback is Reich’s factor, it’s additionally why they introduced in Josh McCown to be QB coach, Parks Frazier as passing recreation coordinator, and Jim Caldwell as an offensive advisor. These are have been the pillows to make any rookie’s touchdown within the NFL as mushy as doable.
There was an issue: That ninth general choose. At one level, certain, there was an affordable likelihood a minimum of one of the QBs could be out there. Nevertheless when Anthony Richardson lit up the mix it grew to become clear he wasn’t going to be the worth 1st rounder many projected within the teenagers or 20s. It was extensively assumed quarterbacks could be chosen at No. 1 and No. 2, with solely Will Levis being a consensus for who would possibly fall out of these picks, and even then tumbling to ninth wasn’t seen as a chance.
Having no company when you’re a group in dire want of a quarterback and it’s your greatest concern sucks. Even worse is needing to take the leftover QB within the class and hoping they pan out, whereas having to commerce the long run to make it occur.
So, as a substitute of paying a hefty worth to maneuver up on draft evening to the third or fifth choose, for example, Carolina paid a mammoth worth to lock up No. 1 general and get their alternative of quarterbacks.
Shedding Moore SUCKS, nevertheless it’s not the tip of the world for the Panthers
D.J. Moore is a really improbable receiver. He’s a uncommon expertise who makes a quarterback’s life simpler and may excel in any respect three ranges as a speedy YAC receiver, a precision route runner in intermediate downs, or as a deep risk.
Chicago bought an unimaginable participant, and extra importantly they’ve the cap area to restructure his contract down the road. Make no mistake, that’s coming, as a result of when Moore signed his extension a yr in the past he inked for MUCH lower than his market worth. $16M a yr is a STEAL in a world the place Christian Kirk is making $24M. That’s no massive deal for the Bears, who’ve room to make it occur — nevertheless it was a lot harder for the Panthers to swing it with their different extensions on the books.
By way of the place Carolina goes offensively it’s not practically as dire because it appears to be like on paper proper now.
The Panthers will take their chosen quarterback, with all indicators pointing to Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, they usually managed to maintain their high choose within the second spherical at No. 39. They might discover a first rate receiver there, however the actual boon with this choose is the unimaginable depth at tight finish within the 2023 draft. This is among the finest tight finish lessons in NFL historical past, and being a barely extra deemphasized place ought to enable the Panthers to simply get the 2nd or third finest tight finish within the class. These high three gamers are so shut in talent that both Luke Musgrave, Dalton Kincaid or Michael Mayer would instantly be an enormous improve to Carolina’s passing recreation and lock up a key place.
Can a very good quarterback excel nearly solely with a decent finish? Ask Patrick Mahomes. Certain, that’s taken to absolutely the excessive — however we’ve seen groups do exactly effective with a TE as their main weapon, a minimum of within the brief time period.
On the subject of receivers there’s a bit of promise right here too. Buying and selling away Moore places a variety of duty on Terrace Marshall Jr., who the Panthers took within the second spherical of the 2021 draft. The previous LSU receiver, and Joe Burrow’s third goal behind Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase confirmed a variety of promise when he grew to become a starter after the group traded away Robbie Chosen Anderson mid-season.
Marshall Jr. completed with 490 yards and a landing in 9 begins. It’s silly to say the place is “effective,” nevertheless it’s not like the cabinet is totally naked. Carolina ought to be capable to add a mid-tier free agent receiver and probably have sufficient within the receiving recreation to get by in 2023, with boatloads of cap area opening up in 2024 to be main gamers in free company.
What’s the Panthers ceiling in 2023?
That’s a bizarre query. It’s much more weird to consider any group having the No. 1 general choose and being the second finest group of their division. If we assume the Derek Carr-led Saints are the favorites to win the NFC South proper now, all the things else is vast open.
Certain, the Falcons may pull off a shock transfer, signal Lamar Jackson and instantly catapult themselves to the highest — but when they proceed to see what they’ve in Desmond Ridder it’s robust to see them making noise. In the meantime Tampa Bay is destined to be within the cellar whereas they rebuild from Tom Brady’s retirement.
If Carolina discover a good quarterback, and with the primary choose on this class they need to, there’s each likelihood they’re again the place they have been in 2022 instantly, probably pushing for a playoff spot. The distinction this time is the group’s receivers are worse, however the QB place can be much better than counting on Sam Darnold or Baker Mayfield.
Most significantly: That is the transfer that establishes this group’s future and solidifies it beneath Frank Reich. The Panthers will not be in a foul spot, they usually really feel so much nearer to the 2020 Bengals who went 4-11-1 in Joe Burrow’s rookie season earlier than changing into a juggernaut, than they do being caught in mediocrity.
If that’s the worth the group paid to make this transfer, it’s going to go down being top-of-the-line in franchise historical past.