The move allows Carolina to acquire four quarterbacks who could be the team’s long-term starters. It worked for the Panthers last time they won the overall pick; In 2011, they drafted Auburn’s Cam Newton, who won the NFL Offensive Player of the Year, earned three Pro Bowl nods, was a first-team All-Pro selection and was named league MVP after leading the Panthers to Super Bowl 50.
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The team has made several deals to acquire Newton’s successor over the past few years, but never have the Panthers been this aggressive.
In 2021, Carolina sought to acquire Matthew Stafford from the Detroit Lions. When Stafford landed in Los Angeles, Carolina switched gears and traded for Sam Darnold from the New York Jets. But his first year in Carolina was limited by a shoulder injury, and he lost his starting job in 2022 when the Panthers traded for Baker Mayfield, who was released in December.
The Panthers haven’t had a winning season or a playoff berth since 2017.
It’s unclear which quarterback they’ll target in this year’s draft, but it’s clear that their focus is on each other during the trade.
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“We’re evaluating right now,” coach Frank Reich said earlier this month at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis. “I think a lot of these kids are very talented, smart, have a lot of qualities, but we’re going to continue to evaluate that.”
Since the AFL/NFL merger in 1967, the top draft has been traded only 12 times, most recently in 2016, when the Rams acquired the top pick from the Tennessee Titans and took quarterback Jared Goff.
It is rare because it is expensive.
Including the trade from Carolina to Chicago, the Panthers have given up a leading receiver in the past four seasons. Moore will now be the primary target for Bears quarterback Justin Fields, Chicago’s first-round pick (No. 11 overall) two years ago.
The Bears, who finished 3-14 last season, have 10 picks in April’s draft, including four in the top 100. According to Spotrac.com, they have about $75.1 million in salary cap space to rebuild their roster.
Coach Matt Eberflus admitted at the combine that trading back in the first round would be considered, even saying the team could make multiple trades to stockpile.
“You can stay right there at No. 1 and pick a great player that you like,” Eberfluss said. “Or you can shop as much as you need to get as many choices as you want. These are all options [general manager] Ryan [Poles] I’m watching.”
This story has been updated.