Did the Carolina Panthers just kiss Justin Fields goodbye?

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) Justin Fields
(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) Justin Fields /

Justin Fields might be out of reach for the Carolina Panthers.

It was a performance for the ages. But Justin Fields‘ starring role for Ohio State in their College Football Playoff victory over Clemson has thrown a further spanner in the works if the Carolina Panthers are looking for a franchise-changing quarterback in the 2021 NFL Draft.

There were plenty of doubters surrounding Fields, who has been hit and miss during a shortened season for the Buckeyes thanks to COVID-19 health concerns. Some even thought he might drop out of the top-five as a result, with BYU signal-caller Zach Wilson’s stock rising an exceptional amount over the course of the campaign.

That will not be the case now.

Fields was nothing short of phenomenal on Friday against the Tigers and their consensus No. 1 overall selection, Trevor Lawrence. He completed 78.6 percent of his passes for 385 passing yards, six touchdowns, and just one interception for a QBR of 99.0. The player also rushed six times for 42 yards and was sacked twice.

Justin Fields won’t be around when the Carolina Panthers are on the clock.

This won’t have gone unnoticed by NFL scouts.

And the New York Jets in particular.

Their recent two-game winning streak has put them out of the running to select Lawrence, who looks bound for the Jaguars providing he declares for the draft now Clemson is out of contention. Fields laid some serious claims to become the No. 2 overall selection next spring and might even make Jacksonville think twice about their decision – which was a slam dunk going into the game.

All this is bad news for the Carolina Panthers, who are probably looking for a long-term solution at quarterback thanks to Teddy Bridgewater‘s lack of consistency this season. If they were hoping someone like Fields would fall to them, then they will now be out of luck.

Fields demonstrated the sort of poise that is normally highly sought after on draft night. If there were any lingering doubts about what the player could bring to an NFL franchise, he answered them in no uncertain terms and a strong showing against Alabama in the National Championship game could lock up a top-two selection if he hasn’t already.

Carolina is tied to Bridgewater until 2022 thanks to the three-year, $63 million deal with a $15 million signing bonus and $33 million guaranteed he signed in free agency. But the calls to select his replacement in the upcoming draft are growing louder with every passing game.

Bridgewater might already be past the point of no return.

But the Panthers’ win at Washington looks set to give him a reprieve.

They had the No. 3 overall selection in the palm of their hands before their fifth victory of the campaign. Carolina is now currently picking at No. 9, which could all change if they are beaten by the New Orleans Saints in their season finale.

Their success in Week 16 infuriated large sections of the team’s fanbase. But the notion of this roster just throwing in the towel was definitely more in hope than expectation when one considers how much desire they’ve shown throughout 2020.

As for Fields, the sky is the limit. This is a player who thrives in the big moment and is going to be a tremendous asset for the lucky NFL team who decides to select him.

Unfortunately, that won’t be the Panthers. And they only have themselves to blame.