5 Carolina Panthers off the trade table at all costs in 2022 and beyond

(Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports) Jaycee Horn
(Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports) Jaycee Horn /
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Carolina Panthers
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Ikem Ekwonu /

Carolina Panthers must not trade Ikem Ekwonu

Trading Ikem Ekwonu should clearly be off-limits. But for a team that has spent draft picks on Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold in back-to-back seasons, it is hard to count on them doing the obvious.

Ekwonu hasn’t been perfect, but he is clearly a part of the long-term answer along the offensive line. Trading him is as nonsensical as it can get, especially considering how long it’s taken the Carolina Panthers to find a long-term replacement for Jordan Gross, who retired almost a decade ago.

While the Panthers’ offensive struggles are certainly due to quarterback play and Ben McAdoo’s system, there have been issues along the offensive line dating all the way back to Cam Newton.  The former NFL MVP often masked these failings with supreme dual-threat ability, but Mayfield or Darnold don’t have anything like the same escapability.

After Ekwonu’s baptism of fire against Myles Garrett in Week 1, his progress has been encouraging. And the offensive line certainly looks among the league’s most improved units after a fantastic start to the campaign.

For the Panthers’ rebuild to go correctly, the team must focus on rebuilding the trenches on both sides of the ball. With the offensive line continuity better than it’s been for some time, it needs to stay that way.