Eye-popping trade projection sees Panthers land No. 1 overall pick

(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) David Tepper and Scott Fitterer
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) David Tepper and Scott Fitterer /

An eye-popping trade projection outlined how the Carolina Panthers could secure the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.

The Carolina Panthers have molded their coaching staff into one of the league’s best. They also have stability across multiple key positional groups to further raise expectations with Frank Reich at the helm.

However, there is one major thing missing.

That is, of course, a true franchise quarterback. Someone that can finally elevate this once-proud franchise back into postseason contention.

General manager Scott Fitterer is now in charge of personnel, which represents another big step in the right direction. His obvious preference is to draft and develop a signal-caller from the college ranks, but how the Panthers go about this remains a source of heated debate among the fanbase.

Carolina Panthers’ potential surge to No. 1 overall discussed by PFF

After their resurgence over the second half of 2022 under Steve Wilks, the Panthers will pick at No. 9 overall in the upcoming draft. This leaves those in power either waiting to see which quarterback falls into their laps or contemplating a bold move up the pecking order to land their prospect of choice.

In order to fully guarantee they have the pick of the litter, striking a deal with the Chicago Bears at No. 1 overall is an ambitious proposal that could reap significant rewards. However, the cost to surge eight spots with numerous quarterback-needy teams ahead of Carolina is going to be astronomical.

This was a topic recently discussed by Michael Renner of Pro Football Focus, who examined in depth what it might take the Panthers and others to move up. The writer projected Carolina’s price to be whopping and eye-watering in equal measure.

This might sound like a lot. But the Bears have all the leverage right now and the Panthers know others such as the Indianapolis Colts, Houston Texans, and even the Las Vegas Raiders will also be discussing something similar.

No matter how tempting it might be if the prize is Bryce Young or C.J. Stroud, Renner believes Carolina will eventually resist the urge when it’s time to make a decision one way or another.

"“The (Carolina) Panthers are a ways away from contending, making them arguably a more intriguing trade partner for the (Chicago) Bears if they’re looking for future picks. It isn’t easy to make the value work without multiple future first-rounders involved. Carolina would be paying a very hefty price, which is why it’s unlikely given a new head coach in Frank Reich shouldn’t be that desperate, yet.”"

The only part that’s hard to agree with is that Carolina isn’t desperate for a franchise presence under center. A constant stream of failed free-agent acquisitions and trades ended Matt Rhule’s time with the organization, so Fitterer won’t want the same complications emerging during his first offseason without the all-controlling former head coach getting the final say.

This sort of package might not be to everyone’s taste. But the simple fact is Carolina won’t get a better chance to shoot their shot.

What’s the alternative? Moving forward with the unproven Matt Corral? Giving Sam Darnold a new deal? Going down the veteran route again with players such as Jimmy Garoppolo, Derek Carr, and Carson Wentz seeking alternative employment?

Of course, they could stand pat in the hope that Will Levis or Anthony Richardson falls into their laps. But either prospect might not be ready to start right away based on their college production.

Fitterer is in on every deal and will leave no stone unturned. But the front office figure knows exactly how important this decision will be for the team and his own future.

That’s why it must be correct. Or the consequences could be severe.

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