Disaster grade for Carolina Panthers after 49ers move up to No. 3

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) Matt Rhule
(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) Matt Rhule /

Where do the Carolina Panthers’ plans for a new quarterback go from here after a bombshell trade between the Miami Dolphins and San Francisco 49ers?

The Carolina Panthers were dealt a significant blow to their hopes of landing one of the top quarterback prospects in the 2021 NFL Draft. Rumors have been swirling about the organization looking to get an upgrade on Teddy Bridgewater one way or another this offseason and considering the situation evolving regarding Deshaun Watson, landing a top college recruit was the most realistic option.

However, the San Francisco 49ers have thrown a significant spanner in the works by moving from No. 12 all the way up to No. 3 overall after a bombshell trade with the Miami Dolphins.

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Niners gave up two first-rounders in 2022 and 2023, together with a third-round pick this year to get their chance at a franchise quarterback to potentially replace Jimmy Garroppolo.

There is a chance they don’t select a signal-caller. But teams don’t give up this sort of capital unless it’s for a quarterback.

A San Francisco source told Schefter that Garroppolo is “their guy next year“. Again, this means nothing if they want to take Justin Fields or Trey Lance and have them sit behind a veteran for a season.

Either way, this is a big problem for the Panthers.

Bridgewater’s inability to get it done with the game on the line saw him go 0-8 on game-winning or tying drives cost Carolina a surprise playoff berth. It would also make for an incredibly awkward situation if the former Louisville standout was their undisputed No. 1 by the time OTAs roll around.

Whether the Panthers are playing the long game for Watson is up for debate. His civil suits won’t be resolved by the draft and he still might face a suspension from the NFL if history has taught us anything. So it might be a case of strengthening other positional groups until the time comes where a call can be made to the Houston Texans down the line.

That is a risky move to make. But the simple fact is Carolina made this bed for themselves when they opted to ditch Cam Newton in favor of giving Bridgewater a three-year, $63 million deal with a $15 million signing bonus and $33 million guaranteed.

Hopefully, the Panthers have a plan.

But sitting on their hands seems to have cost them the chance at one of the potentially elite quarterbacks entering the NFL this year.

No way the Atlanta Falcons will be trading out of No. 4 just so an NFC South rival can select a player who’ll make things more difficult for them. The Cincinnati Bengals won’t want to run the risk of losing out on stud left tackle Penei Sewell or a reunion between Ja’Marr Chase and Joe Burrow, so it might be a case of holding firm on the off chance Lance does fall to them at No. 8.

Considering the buzz surrounding the North Dakota State standout, this is unlikely.

Mac Jones? No thanks.

The Alabama quarterback might be good in the right fit. But the Panthers want a player that can get them excited after years languishing in mediocrity following their Super Bowl 50 appearance.

Carolina Panthers disaster grade: B+

This is one of the worst possible outcomes for the Panthers and makes things incredibly difficult for them. They might pull a rabbit out of the hat. But even if the organization does end up with someone like Sam Darnold, Jones, or another development project as their possible options, it is a far cry from their ambitious plans at the start of the offseason that included Watson or Matthew Stafford.

What comes next is of critical importance.

However, Carolina’s loyal fanbase should get ready for another season with Bridgewater under center in 2021.