Carolina Panthers must consider trading up for a quarterback in 2023

(Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports) Anthony Richardson
(Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports) Anthony Richardson /

Following the NFL Scouting Combine, should the Carolina Panthers consider moving up for a quarterback?

It’s been a tumultuous three and a half years for the Carolina Panthers at the quarterback position.

The franchise has gone through its fair share of starting signal-callers from Will Grier to Baker Mayfield. They even brought back a broken-down Cam Newton for a stretch of games in 2021.

Right now, you can argue that the Panthers have been in quarterback purgatory since 2019.

Carolina hopes to change that this off-season. Owner David Tepper hired former Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich, one of the most respected figureheads in the league, to install a new franchise and be a part of the search for the team’s next quarterback.

In the process, Reich built one of the most intriguing offensive coaching groups in the NFL with the hope of attracting free-agent quarterbacks and potential NFL Draft prospects. Those include Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud, Anthony Richardson, and Will Levis.

All four players are expected to be drafted within the first 10-20 selections of the 2023 NFL Draft.

At the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis this weekend, chatter picked up of the Panthers being interested in trading up for the No. 1 overall selection in this year’s draft, currently bestowed by the Chicago Bears. It makes sense considering their lack of continuity under center over the last few years.

On Saturday, Stroud, Richardson, and Levis all threw during their respective combine drills. The former Florida sensation became the star the weekend, breaking records at his position in the vertical jump (40.5”), broad jump (10’9”), and a 4.44-second 40-yard dash at 6-foot-4 and 244 pounds.

Carolina Panthers must trade up for a top QB prospect

Following Richardson’s exceptional performance, it has become evident that any team outside the first three to four picks will likely need to trade up for one of the top prospects at the position. While it might scare some fans, the Panthers must consider moving up to get their guy.

Sure, three years may not seem long for the average person. In the NFL, it feels like an eternity, and that’s exactly what Panthers fans and people within the organization have been feeling.

The last time I saw great to near-elite quarterback play in Carolina, Newton was going on a tear in the first half of the 2018 season. I would love to see that again, wouldn’t you?

The Panthers are set up to win a potentially weak NFC South this season with Tom Brady’s retirement. Their roster composes great assets on both sides of the ball, including an offensive line that improved greatly last season thanks to some impressive additions and the hiring of coach James Campen.

Hiring Ejiro Evero as defensive coordinator was another masterstroke. The unit that is led by Pro Bowler and franchise pass rusher Brian Burns could be lethal in 2023.

Judging from what Carolina already has to offer across their roster and the team’s new-look coaching staff, why not take the risk and trade up for one of the top quarterback prospects in this year’s class?

Despite having size concerns, Young is a terrific option who plays the position like an NBA point. I have very few concerns about his transition to the pros.

The same goes for Stroud, who can be a Day 1 starter and highly productive in the right situation in his rookie campaign this year.

While Richardson and Levis still need time to develop, landing in Carolina with coach Reich’s staff could accelerate their timeline to playing time at the next level. This is assuming the team is able to secure a veteran bridge in free agency.

Carolina Panthers cannot be caught short in QB search

Scott Fitterer cannot afford to sit on his hands during the draft while each of the top quarterback prospects is taken ahead of him. While I respect and appreciate the willingness to look at every option on the table, the general manager needs to consider making a move up into the top-five selections – assuming that he and Reich have strong convictions on a certain prospect.

I understand the recent history of trading up for signal-callers. It didn’t exactly work out for the Los Angeles Rams and Philadelphia Eagles in 2016 and it certainly didn’t pan out for the New York Jets in 2018. However, the risk is worth it especially if you have convictions to either Young, Stroud, or Richardson.

Knowing the need for a quarterback by both the Houston Texans and the Colts, Carolina would have to jump to either No. 1 or No. 3 overall to get their guy considering the Chicago Bears and Arizona Cardinals are not in the market for one.

If Fitterer and other influential figures in the decision-making process believe that the guy they want will be taken by Houston, I would not blame them for sending an ample amount of draft capital Chicago’s way.

Panthers fans, it’s time to go get a franchise quarterback. The time for waiting is over.

It may cost a lot of draft capital. But it is absolutely worth the risk to finally end the team’s quarterback circus.

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