Should The Carolina Panthers Actually Be Trade Deadline Sellers?

Oct 9, 2022; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Carolina Panthers defensive end Brian Burns (53) in his stance during the second quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 9, 2022; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Carolina Panthers defensive end Brian Burns (53) in his stance during the second quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports /

After firing head coach Matt Rhule, should the Carolina Panthers actually start a fire sale to acquire a plethora of draft picks?

Almost immediately after the Carolina Panthers let go of Matt Rhule (after an 11-27 record), NFL Twitter took a headfirst dive into who the Panthers could trade away to rebuild their cupboard of NFL Draft selections. If you remember, the Panthers gave up a 2023 third-round pick to move up for Matt Rhule in the 2022 NFL Draft. They lacked 2022 picks because of the Sam Darnold trade in which they gave up a second and a fourth in the aforementioned 2022 draft.

So, hypothetical trades have been flying off the presses for the last few days. Most of them are centered around wide receiver D.J. Moore, who received a three-year, $61.884 million extension back in March. The base salary in Moore’s contract for this season is very cheap compared to the next three when that extension kicks in, so a team in a Super Bowl window could make that move. The question is, do the Chiefs, Ravens, Cowboys, or even the Packers make that type of deal?

If anyone would, Baltimore makes the most sense. Rashod Bateman is the de facto WR1 right now, but the offense doesn’t feed him the targets they should, as his yards per route run and yards per target are very impressive. But, if the offense is going to be centered around the run game with Lamar Jackson and J.K. Dobbins, maybe it isn’t worth it. Green Bay making that move would be shocking. Kansas City is enjoying plenty of success. Teams might opt to pursue Odell Beckham Jr. instead.

There have also been some rumblings about Christian McCaffrey. Those rumblings have mostly surrounded the Buffalo Bills, who are struggling in terms of rush EPA per play. A player of McCaffrey’s skill set would elevate their running game and give them another headache to cover in the passing game.

The other two that have been mentioned are Brian Burns and Derrick Brown, Carolina’s first round picks in 2019 and 2020, respectively. Burns has 24 pressures on the young season and four sacks, and is widely regarded as one of the better young pass rushers in the league. Brown is coming into his own in his third season in the NFL. Burns could help all sorts of the contenders, like the Ravens and Chiefs mentioned above. The Cowboys, Eagles, and Rams could all find a spot for Burns rushing the passer.

But should the Carolina Panthers really sell this much in 2022? As someone who loves the NFL Draft, it’s tantalizing to think about all the draft picks the Panthers could get if they go into a full fire sale. However, how likely is it that any of these guys return more than day two picks? And, how likely is it that the Panthers find the next Burns, Brown, and Moore with those picks?

If they are able to trade McCaffrey, do that with no hesitation. McCaffrey’s contract isn’t the worst out there, but avoiding a big dead cap number would be nice. If you’re worried about who follows, the 2023 NFL Draft running back class looks special. They’ll be able to get a talented one even into day three.

But the others, it doesn’t make sense. Trading all of them puts way too much weight on the draft, which is difficult guesswork. Could the Panthers hit on a couple of the picks they acquire? Absolutely! But to guarantee they’d find another Burns or Moore is futile.

The Panthers have a young defense right now. It’s an exciting group headlined by Burns and Brown on the defensive line. Jeremy Chinn is a versatile safety. Jaycee Horn is looking good in his second year in the league. D.J. Moore gives the passing offense a defined WR1. He just needs a better quarterback and the offense will hum. Ikem Ekwonu is going through a tough transition to the NFL, which isn’t shocking for a left tackle.

This is a team that needs the right conductor at the helm, not a team that needs to rip the train apart. As of now, they’re in a great position to get a quarterback. Whether it’s C.J. Stroud, Bryce Young, or Will Levis (yes, that’s already a conversation around the league), getting the guy is an option this year. Bring in a defensive guy who could work wonders with the defense (*ahem* Demeco Ryans) and find an offensive coordinator who can get the best out of a young signal-caller and the playmakers in house. Build the offensive line up. Add more pieces to the defense.

The Carolina Panthers can be active at the deadline. It would be advantageous to get the McCaffrey and Robbie Anderson contracts off the books. Currently, $9.2 million in 2023 cap space doesn’t look great, and I know unloading players would help that. Not the best young players you have, though. Don’t look to completely tear this down. There’s plenty to work with here, you just have to get the right guy in the building. Get it right this coming cycle, and enjoy the success with a quarterback on a rookie deal and revel in the fact that you kept your young stars.