While the Indianapolis Colts were playing the veteran carousel of trying to fix their quarterback situation, the Carolina Panthers were the NFC version of that, with Sam Darnold and Baker Mayfield. Spoiler Alert: Neither of them worked. The Panthers signaled a full rebuild with the trade of Chistian McCaffrey where they were able to get 3 picks in the upcoming draft and another in 2024. Where will the Panthers go with their rebuild?
2022 Record: 7-10
GM: Scott Fitterer
HC: Frank Reich
OC: Thomas Brown
DC: Ejiro Evero
Offense: 20th Scoring
Baker Mayfield 57.8%, 1313 6-6
D’Onta Foreman 203-914-5
DJ Moore 63-888-7
Defense: 19th Scoring
Shaq Thompson 135 Tak
Frankie Luvu 111 Tak, 7 Sacks, 19 TFL
Brain Burns 12.5 Sacks
Notable Free Agents:
Pos, Name, Age, Contract Status, 2022 Snap Count
QB - Sam Darnold (26), UFA, 37.1%
IDL - Matt Ioannidis (29), Void, 55.4%
C - Bradley Bozeman (29), UFA, 66.8%
(7) Projected Cost of Rookie Picks in 2023: $10.7m
Round 1 #9
Round 2 #39
Round 2 #61
Round 3 #93
Round 4 #114
Round 4 #132
Round 5 #147
The Panthers have to do some cap calculations before they enter the 2023 NFL Draft, as no team can be over the salary cap and draft players. However, they have to clear the 7.7m that they are over plus the additional 10.7m that will be needed to draft their players. They were able to secure a 2nd, 3rd and a 4th in this draft including another 5th-rounder in 2024. That is some solid building blocks for a quarterback to come in and have some pieces around him.
Aside from that, the Panthers have some decisions to make when it comes to Shaq Thompson. 2023 will be the final year of his deal and he is expected to make 24m against the cap. Smart money says that Carolina will extend his contract (and maybe add a couple voidable years) to drop their 2023 cap number. Taylor Moton is another player who can have a few years extended and have his 6.6m roster bonus prorated to give Carolina some cap relief.
Looking at the free agents for the Panthers looks like the island of misfit toys, with Sam Darnold heading the list. D’Onta Foreman is also a FA along with Bradley Bozeman. Bozeman played 67% of snaps in 2022 and will have a relatively low cap number if the Panthers want to extend him. Aside from that, and the signs pointing to Carolina drafting a quarterback, they will let most of their free agents walk this off-season.
Holding 4 of the top 100 picks where one of those will be a quarterback is not a bad position for the Panthers to be in for 2023. They are in a weak NFC South and can give their quarterback (who seems to be Anthony Richardson from Florida) time to develop and grow. He is relatively green at the quarterback position but with his 6’4” 232-pound frame, he passes the eye test from a physicality standpoint. The first couple of rounds for the Panthers could be all offense as selecting a QB and a RB seems to be in the cards, but its Carolina, who knows what they will do come draft time.