Will the Carolina Panthers have to trade up for a quarterback in 2021?

(Photo by Sam Wasson/Getty Images) Trey Lance
(Photo by Sam Wasson/Getty Images) Trey Lance /

Will the Carolina Panthers have to move up to select a top quarterback prospect in the 2021 NFL Draft?

Trey Lance’s recent pro day at North Dakota State did nothing to dispel the notion he’s going to be a top player once he gets to the NFL. The Carolina Panthers were in full attendance on Friday to see the gunslinger in action for themselves and undoubtedly left the occasion mightily impressed by what they saw from the prospect.

If the Panthers were hoping that Lance would be around by the time they’re on the clock at No. 8 overall, they might be out of luck. This leaves them with the very real possibility of missing out entirely on the top-four signal-callers entering the next level this year, which would leave them with a considerable problem unless a trade can be agreed to bring Deshaun Watson from the Houston Texans.

The price to acquire Watson is going to be extortionate if the Texans start fielding calls. This might put the Panthers off despite the proposition of trading for a top-five quarterback at the peak of his power being a tempting one. So looking to the draft for an upgrade on Teddy Bridgewater is the more realistic, and cheaper, option.

Carolina Panthers may be forced to trade up.

However, with every week that passes, it seems likely that a bold move up into the upper echelons of the draft is the best way to go.

Trevor Lawrence is the consensus No. 1 overall selection and there is plenty of buzz surrounding the New York Jets taking Zach Wilson straight after. The Miami Dolphins don’t need a signal-caller and would be open to a huge offer to trade down. But there is growing speculation regarding the Atlanta Falcons being enamored with Lance and possibly looking at taking him No. 4.

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If this situation plays out, then Carolina would be left hoping Ohio State’s Justin Fields falling into their laps if they decided to stay put. The problem is, he might not make it past the Detroit Lions at No. 6, so the four best options could all be gone to leave the Panthers looking at other positions or even reaching for someone like Mac Jones.

This would not go down well at all with Carolina’s fanbase, who are sick of cheering for a losing team and the thought of Jones under center does not excite them in the slightest.

The first part of this equation is identifying the player they want. Jacksonville won’t be giving up Lawrence, so looking in the Dolphins’ direction for a move up would guarantee them one of the top-four prospects depending on what the Jets do with the No. 2 overall selection.

This is likely to cost the Panthers next year’s first-rounder and more. So they’ll have to be absolutely convinced that someone like Wilson, Lance, or Fields can transform their fortunes.

Carolina might also decide to give up a little bit more for a proven player such as Watson. But it really is a precarious situation whichever way one looks at it.

It is yet another fascinating element of Carolina’s offseason to keep a close eye on. What transpires over the next few weeks will shape the Panthers’ fortunes next season and beyond, so there is no margin for error either during free agency or the 2021 NFL Draft.

One false move could set them back years. It’s just that simple and it might be a case of trading up for their preferred signal-caller or miss out completely.