NFL Trade Rumors: Carolina Panthers
So it reported that the Carolina Panthers are in the market for a wide receiver and a top-tier one at that. They traded a good one away in D.J. Moore in order to secure the rights to the first overall pick in last April's draft. A pick they used to select former Alabama quarterback Bryce Young. The team believes in him as a quarterback and as a leader on their team which was completely overhauled this offseason. The season has gone to plan as the Panthers are sitting at 0-4 and quickly falling behind in the playoff race. The reports indicate they think they can turn things around now and not wait till next year. Let's examine who the Panthers could be targeting and what they could potentially pay.
First, we need to take a look at what wide receivers might be available on the market. Looking at the wide receivers who will be free agents after this year we have a long list but it gets whittled down pretty quickly when you are talking about top-tier guys.
Mike Evans- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (age 30)
PROS: He has a proven track record of being good even with subpar quarterback play. He is trying to have his 10th straight 1000-yard season. He is big and commands attention from secondaries and would provide a veteran presence and that super bowl winning pedigree that the Panthers are missing
CONS: He will be 30 years old. If the Panthers are just looking at this year it would make sense but long term it doesn't. They already have Adam Thielen who is 33. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are also in the same division. Sitting at 3-1 and top of their division it doesn't make a ton of sense for the Bucs to trade away one of the pieces that has led them there. Tampa’s brass seems like loyal guys so having Evans finish his time out for the orange and pewter is something we haven't seen much in today's NFL.
Calvin Ridley- Jacksonville Jaguars (age 28.8)
PROS: He might be on the older side of the spectrum at almost 29 after this season but he has almost two years off from football. That lack of wear and tear on his body should keep him around longer. He also has familiarity with the division having played for the Falcons before getting traded to the Jacksonville Jaguars. There is some familiarity between Frank Reich and Pederson from their time in Philly so that could grease the wheels. Despite not being there at the same time both he and Young played for Nick Saban at Alabama
CONS: The Jaguars are on the rise. They have solid young pieces at most skill positions and a great head coach in Doug Pederson. Let's also not forget that the Jags traded for Ridley last season knowing he would sit out the rest of that year. They paid a 5th and a 4th which could turn into a 3rd based on playing time and 2nd if the Jags extend him. The issues that kept Ridley off the field should be rectified but they could come out of nowhere and cause an issue for the Panthers down the road.
Michael Pittman- Indianapolis Colts (age:25.9)
PROS: Second youngest among the top five guys. He has familiarity with Reich's system from their time with the Indianapolis Colts. Has proven production with probably some of the worst quarterbacks play out of the Big Five.
CONS: He hasn't had a true top 10 year yet. The Colts are looking to rebuild and with a rookie quarterback, they may want to keep the experience. They have been stingy with the purse strings but could be saving that money for Pittman this off-season.
Marquise Brown- Arizona Cardinals (age 26.2)
PROS: He is the youngest out of the big six. He wasn't drafted by the Arizona Cardinals so they have less investment into him. The Cardinals are also looking at a rebuild so draft capital might be more attractive to them than letting him walk in free agency.
CONS: He hasn't panned out well on two teams so the leash on him might be shorter than the others. He is the smallest of the big five so he doesn't fit the traditional build of a top-end WR1
Tee Higgins- Cincinnati Bengals (age 24.7)
PROS: coming from the Bengals who could have cap space issues trying to fit Higgins in with Joe Burrow’s recent big contract and Ja’Marr Chase looking to get paid soon. He has done very well considering he has been the 1B with Chase. Very young given the experience he has.
CONS: Injuries. He is currently dealing with cracked ribs so that may keep him out for an extended period of time. If the Panthers are looking to add someone for this year that would put a halt to those plans.
There are a few other names out there that could be considered. They aren't exactly true wide receivers but have the potential to be one if they get off their current team and out of the shadow of others around them
Terry McLaurin- Washington Commanders (age 28)
PROS: The Commander has new owners who are known to trade away assets and go into a rebuild “process”. McLaurin has been good with subpar quarterback play.
CONS: Has a massive cap hit next year on his current contract. Slightly older than most and hasn't had a true top 12 years yet.
Tyler Boyd- Cincinnati Bengals (age 28.8)
Pro: has been a solid three for the Bengals who have to figure out where their money is going to go. He could be a cap casualty so the Bengals might want to get something for him.
Cons: He has never been put in a role where he is playing a large number of snaps. He is on the older side which could be a deterrent for the Panthers who might be looking for more youth.
Van Jefferson- Los Angles Rams (age 27.2)
PROS: He could be the odd man out on Ram’s team that will be getting Cooper Kupp back and has seen breakouts from Puka Nacua and Tutu Atwell.
CONS: has been playing a ton of snaps but not seeing targets. Could be that he just isn't getting open enough when facing top coverage
Darnell Mooney- Chicago Bear (age 25.6)
PROS: we know that the Bears and Panthers can get a deal done. It would be interesting to see them ship Mooney out after not including him in the package with the 1st round. It was reported that the Panthers wanted him.
CONS: Hasn't shown the well-roundedness of the others and is mainly a field stretcher. The Broncos seem committed to him even if they aren't committed to the quarterback or coaching staff.
Rashid Shaheed- New Orleans Saint (age 25.1)
PROS: Late bloomer at the NFL level. Still young and coming into his own. Has become the odd man out with Michael Thomas regaining his former form and Chris Olave blossoming into a top guy
CONS: In the division which makes it hard to get a deal done. Michael Thomas is getting older so the Saints would be giving up youth.
Gabe Davis- Buffalo Bills (age 24.5)
PROS: Has morphed into a more well-rounded pass catcher. He still has boom game potential but has worked on his route running. Brings in the culture from Buffalo.
CONS: Davis might not want to sign a long-term deal on a rebuilding franchise. He may be looking to go to another winner since that is what he is accustomed to. We have not seen him as the top guy on a team yet even in a spot start. Bills are also in a win-now window so giving up an asset doesn't help them get over the hump.
Jerry Jeudy or Cortland Sutton- Denver Broncos (ages 24.1 & 27)
PROS: Both have top-end talent. Has done well with rotating quarterbacks and new systems. The Broncos are hurting for draft capital due to some unfortunate moves so they could be looking to get some back. Jeudy has the Alabama Alumni connection.
CONS: Both have time left on their deal which gives the Panthers guaranteed years but could also mean the players could be out the door before the rebuild is complete. Injuries plague both of them which creates a huge concern.
John Metchie- Houston Texans (age 23)
PROS: He played with Young at Alabama and we have seen how pairing college teammates together has helped quarterbacks progress. Metchie is now the odd man out in Houston with Tank Dell and Nico Collins playing well. The Texans gave up future picks to move up and select Will Anderson so they might be looking to get picks back
CONS: We really haven't seen Metchie play in the NFL. After missing all of his rookie season with Leukemia this is really his first couple of games. Slightly smaller than what you normally want as a true WR1.
We now have to look at the cost of acquiring one of these players. Let's start with what wide receivers have cost on the trade market. It's been an up-and-down value across the board. We have seen top-five guys like Tyreek Hill who was just about 28 years old get traded for 1st, 2nd, 4th, 4th, and 6th round picks. We have also seen underrated players like perineal 1000-yard-getter Brandin Cooks go for a 5th and a 6th. The last trade we saw was the Cleveland Browns trading a 2nd round pick to acquire Elijah Moore from the New York Jets. That seems to be the rough price for a young wide receiver who has had a good year but might be underperforming or found themselves on the outs. It's the same price that the Bears paid for Chase Claypool. I think that will be the starting price for the second-tier level guys. I think any of the big five will cost more. They may end up closer to what AJ Brown cost the Eagles when they gave up a 1st and a 3rd to the Titans. Davante Adams cost the Raiders a 1st and a 2nd even though everyone knew he wanted out of Green Bay.
So can the Panthers afford those prices? Well not in straight picks. First off they do not hold a 1st round pick in this upcoming draft. It was sent to Chicago as part of the package that got them this year first. They do own their own 2nd, 3rd, and 4th rounders and a pair of 5th rounders which include the 49ers and Titans picks.
So getting one of the top names might be difficult. They will either need to find a deal or include players in the package. The Panthers do have some pieces that they could move. Defensive End Brian Burns has been unhappy in Carolina for a while so he could be added in with a pick to get one of the top guys. The Panthers could also ship picks from 2025 or 2026 to sweeten the deal. I doubt they want to trade that much future so players might have to be it. They could also part way with future free agents cornerbacks Troy Hill and CJ Henderson. If the Panthers are serious about making a deal they will have to look at the roster they have and figure out where they can shed some depth and cap space to fit a big name’s new contract. The Panthers currently have $9.5 million in cap space so that's not a huge issue this season but could be an issue down the road.
WHO WILL IT BE?
I believe the most likely players to get traded to the Panthers are Michael Pittman, Terry McLaurin or one of the Denver wide receivers, mainly Jerry Jeudy. I think their relatively young ages make them attractive to the Panthers for not only this year but for a longer-term plan.
I like Pittman's ability to come in mid-season and jump right in due to him knowing the system that Reich has installed. The Colts could use picks to replace Jonathan Taylor who looks destined to be in a new uniform. If they can get a 2nd and a solid starter on defense they might just pull the trigger. Brian Burns or C.J. Henderson makes sense for the Colts who have an aging defense and owner Jim Irsay knows that having a stout D is key to winning another championship. Pittman excels at the short passes on the outside and intermediate over the middle which is where Young has been the most effective.
I fully believe that the Commanders ownership group will do the same thing they did with the 76ers in the NBA and the New Jersey Devils in the NHL. Trade away good but aging assets get their contracts off the books and stack draft picks. The NFL is more accelerated the the other leagues so getting high-end capitol quickly will help the Commanders turn into a playoff team quicker. They have good young pieces there. McLaurin has been good with bad quarterbacks so he should be able to do well with Young. He can learn for Thielen and be around for the next five years.
Jeudy might take a game or two to catch on but seems to be able to adapt to different systems and succeed. The Broncos are looking to get picks back after their trades for Russell Wilson and Sean Payton haven't worked out. They have good receiver depth on the roster drafting good players who have just dealt with injuries. There is new ownership in Denver so they may be looking to start with “their guys”. Jeudy has decent size and speed but has been hampered by injuries. That may work in the Panthers' favor as it might keep the cost down. The Broncos also have Jeudy's replacement already on the roster in Marvin Mims. If they were to trade Sutton they wouldn't be able to replace him this year with Tim Patrick on IR.
I’m not sure the Panthers actually make a trade before the Oct 31st trade deadline. It doesn't make a ton of sense to me to give away future assets when this year already seems to be a wash. They aren't winning the divisions and a wild card seems out of reach. I think they can get just as good of a player with their second-round pick which projects to be a higher one given their record. It won’t hurt Bryce Young's development if he doesn't have a top-end guy this year. He has Adam Thielen who is a savvy veteran who has been very good and sure-handed. The offensive line probably needs more work than the wide receiver group. Young has been sacked 11 times already which is top ten most in the league so far. If the Panthers really want to make a splash they can it just might be a short-sighted move versus a long-term move.
Playing fantasy football for over 25 years. Dynasty player for 4 years. Always digging for those diamonds in the rough players. First guy on Isaiah Hodgins.