Could the Carolina Panthers sacrifice draft assets to lure Mike Tomlin?

The prospect of trading for Mike Tomlin was recently touted by an NFL insider.

Mike Tomlin
Mike Tomlin / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
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Could the Carolina Panthers go after one of the biggest fishes around by trading for Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin in 2024?

David Tepper is intent on making big splashes. He's still seeking NFL acceptance to a certain extent. After so much losing and suspect moves, the billionaire Carolina Panthers owner is being seen more as a hindrance than a help as he gets set to embark on yet another head coaching hire.

The Panthers have to get this one right. They've spent too long in the proverbial wilderness. Something that could lead them to make a bold bid for Mike Tomlin via trade from the Pittsburgh Steelers based on recent speculation from Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated.

Carolina Panthers touted as potential Mike Tomlin destination

The respected insider thought Tomlin's time in Pittsburgh might be running its course. While the Steelers are extremely loyal when it comes to their head coaches, a big offer could be enough for the storied franchise to part ways with their highly respected coach. But there are many hurdles to overcome before that.

"If Tomlin and the Rooneys aren’t going to have the conversation on their own, this would be the way to force it on everyone. Say Carolina’s David Tepper or Washington’s Josh Harris—both former minority owners in Pittsburgh—call Art Rooney and suggest a trade. Say they’re willing to part with a first-round pick and more. Say Rooney says he has to think about it, and then goes to Tomlin with the idea. Both owners would likely pay top dollar for him. And if you have that conversation, where does it go? I think it’s possible that conversation leads to the conclusion that, after 17 years, it’s simply time. Honestly, I wasn’t really thinking this way until a couple of weeks ago. But after the Cardinals, Patriots and Colts games, I’m starting to think it’s possible."

Albert Breer, Sports Illustrated
Carolina Panthers
David Tepper / Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

This would instantly legitimize Tepper's plans to take the Panthers forward. Tomlin is one of the best coaches around. He's a supreme motivator. A master tactician. Someone who would walk straight into the building and have everyone across the organization believing.

The benefits are glaring. However, giving up more valuable draft assets for a head coach seems risky given Carolina's current state.

They don't have their first-round pick this year, which is No. 1 overall currently. They don't have their second-rounder in 2025. Any high-end capital spent on Tomlin would jeopardize their chances of finding difference-makers from the college ranks. It would also make the job far less appealing to the head coach.

It's something few teams contemplate. The Denver Broncos worked out a deal to get Sean Payton out of his New Orleans Saints contract earlier this year. But the jury is still out as to whether that was the correct decision.

There's also potential friction between the head coach and Tepper to consider. The hedge fund manager was reportedly one of the minority partners who wanted him fired once upon a time. Couple this with his hair-trigger response to failure as an NFL owner, Tomlin might be a little wary about taking the plunge if he's made available.

It's a different story with the Washington Commanders, who were also mentioned. They have plenty of draft capital. They have around $100 million in salary-cap space according to most projections. They have ambitious owners with a track record of running sports franchises effectively. It's a much bigger market.

Tomlin is exactly the sort of coach Carolina needs. Although nothing should be dismissed or ruled out with Tepper calling the shots, a trade seems like a step too far.

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