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NFL Draft

5 Burning Questions We Need Answered After Panthers-Bears Trade

  • Jaime Eisner
  • March 10, 2023
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While Friday news dumps are usually reserved for negative developments, NFL fans got a nifty little trade gift wrapped for us between the Carolina Panthers and Chicago Bears. The Panthers jumped all the way up from No. 9 overall to secure the top pick in the 2023 NFL Draft in exchange for four draft picks and a player.

We’ll get into all the details here shortly, but the trade raised a handful of questions about not only the two teams involved but others as well. Here are five burning questions we need to be answered following the Panthers-Bears trade.

  1. Who do the Panthers take at No. 1?

This is the most obvious question on everyone’s mind right now, as it should be. There is a fearsome foursome of passers atop the class: Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud, Anthony Richardson, and Will Levis. Any of them could be the pick at No. 1. The Athletic is reporting that league insiders expect Carolina to target Stroud, but I’ve heard differently. There isn’t a clear-cut pick at the moment, but I would not rule out Young or Levis at No. 1. There hasn’t been much connecting the Panthers to Richardson, however. This process will be fluid over the next 6-7 weeks, but Carolina will get its guy—unless they trade down, of course.

  1. Did the Panthers give up too much?

Value is in the eye of the beholder, but we can’t ignore that the word “FLEECED” trended on Twitter shortly after this deal became public. The Panthers parted with their first-round pick and one of their second-round picks this year plus a 2024 first-rounder, a 2025 second-rounder, and wide receiver D.J. Moore in exchange for the top pick. If Carolina does find its franchise QB, it will be a great deal. If not, well, Scott Fitterer and Co. will pay for it with their jobs. While it’s a hefty price to pay, there is some benefit to the Panthers holding onto their 2025 first-round pick, but the loss of Moore will be felt by Carolina’s offense as a whole and their new QB1 in particular.

From the Bears’ perspective, this was the exact deal they needed. Yes, they move all the way back to No. 9 overall and out of Will Anderson Jr. territory, but getting an uber-talented, soon-to-be 26-year-old receiver back in the deal to take over as the WR1 in Chicago is tough to pass up. Chicago fills a major need with a star player on a reasonable contract while still picking up two firsts and two seconds. That’s a major win in my book.

  1. So, where do the Bears go now?

Now holding the No. 9 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, the Bears have several options at their disposal. While it’s possible star DT Jalen Carter slips, it’s way too early to predict how his racing charge will affect his draft stock. However, there will be plenty of defensive disruptors still available.

How does Myles Murphy in a Bears uniform sound? Murphy has the size and versatility to make an impact anywhere, but especially on a Bears team that struggled to put pressure on quarterbacks all last season. What about Tyree Wilson, the pass-rusher with a massive wingspan that will terrorize offensive tackles for years to come? What if they get the pick of the litter at offensive tackle, with Peter Skoronski, Paris Johnson Jr., and Broderick Jones on the board? Any of those options will help the Bears tremendously despite missing out on Anderson Jr.

  1. What are the Panthers going to do about their WR corps?

A quick look at Carolina’s current wide receiver depth chart reveals a who’s who potential with little production. Terrace Marshall Jr. flashed at times late last season, but has yet to live up to the hype he had coming out of LSU. Laviska Shenault Jr. is a former top-50 pick that hasn’t found a steady role on any team he’s been on. Preston Williams makes some highlight reels here and there, but projects as a depth option at this point, as does Shi Smith. Where do the Panthers go from here?

There isn’t a robust wide receiver free-agent market, but the Panthers reportedly attended Odell Beckham Jr.’s workout in Arizona on Friday. Other players like JuJu Smith-Schuster, Jakobi Meyers, Adam Thielen, Allen Lazard, and D.J. Chark top the free-agent charts.

What if the Panthers want to leverage the second-round pick they still possess? Could that pick persuade the Cardinals to send them DeAndre Hopkins? Could they use that pick to add a Jalin Hyatt, Josh Downs, or any other rookie that slips out of the first round?

Regardless of who they chose at No. 1, work needs to be done to build up the wide receiver corps.

  1. Are the Colts screwed?

There was always going to be just one winner of the No. 1 overall pick sweepstakes, with at least one team left in the cold. The Colts still pick at No. 4 overall so it’s not like the Panthers put them completely out of range for a top quarterback, but the Colts will need to be more reactionary than I’m sure they would like. There are four potential paths forward for Indianapolis. 

1) Stay put and let the board fall to them. There is a sense that teams have different QB1s and there’s no guarantee that either the Panthers or the Texans will take the player the Colts have atop their board.

2) Move up one spot and ensure no one else can get in front of them. I’m sure Arizona would be more than happy to pick up some day-two draft capital and still land the top defensive player on their board at No. 4 instead of No. 3. For the Colts, you block a team like the Raiders (and maybe even the Seahawks and Lions) from moving in front of you to eliminate a third quarterback option.

3) Grit your teeth and call the Panthers. Indianapolis would have to offer a major sweetheart deal to get the Panthers to move back from No. 1 to No. 4 after just trading up, but Carolina has already kinda sorta leaked that they’d at least listen to the possibility. This is a complete panic move that could set the franchise back a decade if it fails, but it’s an option on the table.

4) Sign Lamar Jackson to an offer sheet the Ravens can’t match. If all else fails, maybe you just decide that Jackson is better than any passer still available at No. 4 and see if you can structure a deal the Ravens won’t match. In this scenario, you give up the No. 4 pick and a first-round pick in 2024—a smaller package than what it would take to move up to No. 1 right now.

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Jaime Eisner