Best, worst offseason moves for the Carolina Panthers
from Eric Smithling, with YardBarker.com/www.yardbarker.com
The Panthers made a big splash by moving up to No. 1 overall in the 2023 NFL Draft in Kansas City (April 27-29), one of the organization’s best moves this offseason. That doesn’t mean everything’s rosy in Charlotte. The Panthers, who finished 2022 with a 7-10 record, are much improved, but they also made questionable moves.
BEST | Trading up to No. 1 overall: Carolina resided in quarterback purgatory the past couple of seasons and was headed that way again until GM Scott Fitterer traded up to first overall pick.
The Panthers gave up a staggering haul in the trade with the Bears and are expected to pick either QB Bryce Young of Alabama or QB C.J. Stroud of Ohio State. (Young is the betting favorite to go first, per OddsChecker.) Either should be an improvement over the largely ineffective trio of Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold and P.J. Walker. They combined to complete 58.4 percent of their passes for 3,246 yards, 16 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in 2022.
In Dane Brugler’s extensive draft preview for The Athletic, he described Young as “naturally accurate from any arm angle” and noted his adjusted career completion percentage at 78 percent.
BEST | D.J. Chark, Adam Thielen signings: The worst aspect of the Panthers-Bears trade for Carolina was parting with D.J. Moore as it created a vacuum at No. 1 wide receiver. The front office might not have fully made up for his loss with the Chark and Thielen signings, but those two — along with the signing of tight end Hayden Hurst — will give the team’s next starting QB options to spread the ball around.
Moore was Carolina’s leading receiver for the past four seasons, including three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons from 2019-2021. He set a career high in touchdown receptions (seven) a season ago and is fourth on the Panthers’ all-time receiving yards list, trailing only tight end Greg Olsen and receivers Muhsin Muhammad and Steve Smith Sr. Chark’s last 1,000-yard season was in 2019 and Thielen’s came in 2018. While neither is on Moore’s level, they help improve the depth of the team’s wide receiver unit.
WORST | Miles Sanders signing: D’Onta Foreman led Carolina’s rushing attack once Christian McCaffrey was traded and the team didn’t miss a beat. Curiously, instead of re-signing Foreman, the Panthers spent more money on a player only one year younger and with 296 more career carries.
Sanders signed a four-year, $25.4 million contract. Foremen signed a one-year, $2 million deal with the Bears. Both running backs set career highs in rushing attempts, yards and touchdowns in 2022. With plenty of evidence suggesting teams don’t need to spend exorbitant money at the position, it’s curious that the Panthers agreed to a longer, more expensive contract with Sanders when Foreman was available much cheaper.
WORST | Not retaining Steve Wilks as HC: The decision to hire Frank Reich and move on from interim head coach could end up working out for the Panthers, but it’s hard to argue that Wilks didn’t deserve the opportunity to lead Carolina without the interim tag.
The Christian McCaffrey and Chosen Anderson trades should have accelerated the Panthers’ rebuild, but Wilks kept his team engaged over the final 12 games of the season, posting a 6-6 record after the team went 1-4 in its first five games under Matt Rhule. That should have been enough to warrant Wilks receiving a new contract, but it only reminds us that the NFL isn’t as meritocratic as it wants us to believe.