Panthers #6 pick can’t fill two major needs, so 7 Ideas for GM Fitterer to consider along the way

Without burying the lead, but with a quantity of tongue in cheek, the answer is Testaverde. They wouldn’t owe anyone compensation picks.

Just kidding, a bit of shock therapy there. Its Kaepernick.

Every Panther fan, in fact the NFL WORLD knows how desperately the Carolina Panthers want-need an alpha-type leader as a quarterback. Sound of mind and limb (letting Cam out the side door easily with that criteria), able to hand the ball to McCaffrey regularly, and throw some long TDs to the now properly taken care of contract-wise DJ Moore.

With the DeShaun Watson dalliance settled after his trade to Cleveland (!?), and nobody experts project as a franchise QB in the draft, that #6 should mean General Manager Scott Fitterer grabs a documented and undeniably sturdy OLT (offensive left tackle) to settle an obvious long term line problem.

Names are circulating, but if you’ve heard the Panthers might select a stud edge rusher, that’s what they call ‘smoke.’

Highly Motivated – Absolutely!

Are Kaep’s skills anywhere near NFL levels after years (post 2016) wandering in the relative desert, essentially black-listed for his kneeling as a silent message about constant shooting-killing of young black men by white cops across America? Held to the light of retreads (Jay Cutler, Ryan Fitzpatrick) who have gotten opportunities elsewhere, is he at all a consideration?

Just in case you didn’t know, Kaep and the Panthers passed this way before, in 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q1z2kBAO5yI

While it would have to be one HELL of a workout to make such a bet-the-franchise move, when options include Cam and the un-good performance of Darnold over his first ten games, Baker Mayfield sure isn’t a more logical answer than Kaepernick.

You wouldn’t keep the lid on a workout with professional route runners Kaep says he’d like to throw to (Panthers have several), some PR circus would accompany it – Cleveland is getting a ration of negativity for bringing Watson in – but that isn’t Panthers problem. Would they have to make a huge offer to satisfy some sense of ‘worth’ after so long, or just put together a ‘Make Good’ incentive package (Wins? 4000 yards, Comeback Player of Year?) that puts him in camp and working full time on his skills?

Cam’s haberdashery and previous community efforts shouldn’t and won’t count in further discussions.

‘Make good’ sounds like a winner, and its doubtful Mr. Tepper pays prime $$$ for another stop gap QB. Like many teams, when you’re down, it behooves looking at all options, and Panthers continue to sign positional players. If Coach Rhule can’t turn a former Temple player like PJ Walker into the starter, Darnold is signed for $18MM, and Rodgers got $200MM to stay in Green Bay, Fitterer will have some leeway on a contract.

#2 – Sam Darnold

Okay, this isn’t Sam Darnold by any stretch of imagination, but would he be more likeable if he dressed like Cam?

Charlotte fans were willing to believe some good loving after three years in New York would cure the former #3 overall pick of all his demons, yet with an easy, 25th place schedule, his ability to throw the long ball, and a plethora of offensive options, he indeed under-performed in 2021.

How much blame for that goes with exiled Offensive Coordinator Joe Brady, whose LSU superstars (Joe Burrow, 4 receivers, RBs) blowing away college secondaries got him the job but didn’t seem to faze many pros, is open to discussion.

FYI – Panthers will be playing the 12th toughest schedule this year. https://www.panthers.com/news/carolina-panthers-2022-opponents-are-set

Yes, Darnold looks like a weak link, and whether anyone could fail while having CMC to hand off to (please, please!) or to drop swing passes he lugs 18 yards or so, we may never know. In gallows humor, if the Panthers can’t somehow package him in a trade, at least he isn’t the $40MM dead money salary cap hit former Falcon Matt Ryan’s team was willing to take by shoving him at the Colts.

Darnold looks like a weak link, but at least he isn’t wearing a massive, albatross level $40MM dead money salary cap hit former Falcon Matt Ryan’s team was willing to take.

FYI – An albatross has nearly a 10 foot wing span, and is considered an insult when its meant as a psychological burden that feels like a curse. In Rime of the Ancient Mariner  (Coleridge,1798), as bad luck (becalmed) continues, the ships crew blame their misfortunes on the mariner killing an albatross, which is hung from the his neck to signify the mariner’s culpability in cursing the ship.

Sam Darnold is not the unwieldy burden Ryan’s $40 million cap hit is.

Jury is out on Coach Rhule – Year 3

Ending pursuit of Watson means the Panthers will be able to keep many of their really good pieces, which includes a defense that’s regained a place in the middle of the pack compared to previous bottom three in most categories. Jeremy Chinn, Derek Brown, and edge rusher-mayhem maker Brian Burns are part of that cadre. Donte Jackson would belong in that category if he used that speed to *stop* receptions instead of laying a lick on receivers immediately after the catch.

Whether every former player (Temple, Baylor) of Rhule’s that comes to Panthers is an automatic best choice, Fitterer is a known and respected quantity as a trader. It seemed like a gaping hole had been fixed with his initial signing of Darnold, but he’ll be essential in continuing to bring in possibilities. https://cdtalententerprises.com/2021/04/09/panthers-take-care-of-business-gm-fitterer-lands-qb-darnold-to-get-rolling/

Coaches are hired to be fired, and the NFL landscape is littered with unsuccessful college transitions. If Rhule still has any reason to be thankful the last Thursday in November, so will a lot of Panther fans. Tepper’s new futbol team, Charlotte FC, came out of the gate with a record-breaking home crowd of over 75,000. https://www.charlottefootballclub.com/video/miguel-ramirez-talks-match-against-fc-cincinnati-first-win#miguel-ramirez-talks-match-against-fc-cincinnati-first-win. Success there doesn’t mean he’d be at all happy with a Panthers team that puts up less than a serious playoff-level season.

The Panthers Defense is up to Snuff

Two drafts ago the Panthers used all seven picks on defense, and Phil Snow came in with Rhule from Baylor as Defensive Coordinator. Last year their #1 pick was Jaycee Horn, who didn’t play after week three with a broken foot. Chinn-Horn could become a bona fide lock-down duo, the D moved to middle of pack, and while early raves for doing well against three weak teams to start weren’t reality, the Panther defense finished strong (36 sacks) by many metrics. https://www.catscratchreader.com/2022/1/19/22888030/final-2021-ratings-for-the-panthers-defense-per-pro-football-focus.

In all the messaging from Houston about Watson, it seemed like draft picks, help for the Texan defense, and even McCaffrey, were thought possibilities to go in the pot, so losing defensive progress would’ve replaced QB as a challenge.

Burns is an actual stud, this could well be his blossom year. Will speed rusher be the greatest necessity in draft? Highly doubtful.

McCaffrey Silences the Doubters

To say “It is what it is” about Christian McCaffrey’s two year holding pattern is almost legitimate, but if Kaepernick would be well motivated, CMC is a documented over-achiever https://www.cbssports.com/nfl/news/panthers-restructure-christian-mccaffreys-contract-reportedly-clear-up-5-5-million-in-cap-space/ Charlotte has paid for the best of what comes next, McCaffrey restructured that $21.5 MM bonus contract so many talk about, so you’ll see how he feels about being sidelined for most of two years.

At NO point should anyone be linking his name as trade bait. He might have made the offensive line look better than it was up until then, but great players elevate the play of those around them. Believing a block held an extra part of a second might mean McCaffrey breaks a big one fires a team up. The Buccaneers have Tom Brady back, you KNOW the belief he instills as The GOAT. Don’t sweat that the Panthers have worn CMC out by overuse, he is coming loaded for payback.

#6 – The McAdoo Offense

Perhaps there are doubts about getting anything from the Giants, but if the Panthers new offensive coordinator gets the benefit of salary cap funds (about $29MM, as noted) going into the offensive line instead of switching parts around every time someone gets injured, that would be progress. Fitterer doing anything except trading down a couple spots while still getting that stud OLT isn’t going to happen.

Just WHO is going to run *any* offense will be the primary question. Kaep is 34 now, he hasn’t taken a beating in a while, so it’s not a hard thirty-four, and he’s as worthy of being talked about as anyone. The NFL has mostly given up the RPO (run-pass option) that Cam, Russ, RPG III, and several others did well with early, because defensive coordinators quickly decided whacking the QB on every play would make teams leery of putting high value QBs health on the line.

Offensive line play WILL improve, and not getting Watson to Charlotte means lots of other people get paid. DJ Moore is on track to game-breaker status, but only if Panthers QB (Kaepernick?) has time, with ability to move around when necessary. Giants O-lines always had a reputation for grinding power game, Chubba and CMC will be able to work with that, and yes, long balls to Moore/Anderson should be expected.

Using tight ends for blocking may be necessary, more satisfying would be Tommy Tremble and Ian Thomas evolving into ninja-level receivers, if watching Greg Olsen tape can be converted to productive pattern running.

#7 – Year 3 of Rhule doesn’t make us Detroit

Detroit allowed Matt Millen to single-handedly wreck the franchise (31-97) over eight years as CEO/team president, a job his linebacking career didn’t prepare him for at all. GM Scott Fitterer doesn’t have such limitations, and he’s at the controls. The necessary help is mostly on the way. Colin Kaepernick, we’ll see how that rolls.

With all due respect to Matt Stafford for escaping 12 years of servitude in Detroit and using his super arm to take Rams to a winning Super Bowl – or the end of the Baker Mayfield run in Cleveland with Watson’s arrival – four years of sub-standard football is enough for Tepper (and fans). Yes, a $62MM coach should do better than 10-23, even if not having an inspirational QB or stud running back sounds legitimate.

That delay with new headquarters in Rock Hill aside, Mr. Tepper has staked out quite a few successful operations in his time as an owner. If Coach Rhule’s leadership of 2022 team is regarded as a serious mistake at Thanksgiving, that would be cause for specific change.

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