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Fixing the Carolina Panthers: 2023 NFL Draft plan, pending free agents and trade candidates

Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Carolina Panthers offensive tackle Cameron Erving (75) blocks during the second half against the Buffalo Bills at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

  • Fire sale in Carolina: Only seven Carolina Panthers players should be truly off-limits in trades.
  • Panthers tackle could garner interest on trade block: Cam Erving is a great trade candidate with tackle injuries across the NFL.
  • 2023 NFL Draft plans: Carolina’s 2023 first-round pick must be used on a quarterback or traded.
Estimated reading time: 8 minutes


The Carolina Panthers dug themselves a multi-year hole after trying to apply band-aids to an open heart wound, as their short-sightedness led to a scary lack of resources considering the complete lack of talent on the roster. There are a few young building blocks in place with wide receiver D.J. Moore in addition to tackles Ikem Ekwonu and Taylor Moton on offense on top of edge defender Brian Burns, interior defender Derrick Brown, cornerback Jaycee Horn and safety Jeremy Chinn on defense. Beyond this list of seven potential cornerstones, everything else is largely a question mark. 

Of course, they have other quality players —such as running back Christian McCaffrey and guard Austin Corbett, among others — but will they be making a significant impact by the next time Carolina is competitive? This is the question the front office and ownership have to honestly ask themselves —one they've consistently got wrong the last several offseasons. They are not close and have not been close to contending in quite a while, and the belief they were is why this won’t be a quick fix. 

Since the beginning of the 2021 season, Carolina traded away a second-, third-, fourth-, fifth- and two sixth-round picks for veteran players. The Panthers have the fourth-fewest wins in the NFL since then. They spent over $60 million and a second-, two third-, a fourth- and conditional fifth-round picks on quarterbacks since signing Teddy Bridgewater in 2020 — they rank 31st in PFF passing grade and expected points added per dropback since the beginning of 2020. 

Before we dive into the next steps, here is where the Panthers stand from a resources standpoint:

Current 2022 cap space: $10.2 million (second)

Projected 2023 effective cap space: -$250K (26th)

  • Effective cap space takes into account signing the projected draft class and as many veterans as is necessary to fill out a full roster.
  • Carolina currently has 39 players under contract for 2023.

Draft capital

The Panthers do not own the rights to their own 2023 third- or sixth-round draft picks.

  • The third-rounder, owned by the New England Patriots, currently projects to be the No. 64 overall pick (Miami forfeited its 2023 first-round pick for illegal tampering)

Even if they garner the No. 1 overall pick, they rank 12th in total 2023 draft capital, according to the Fitzgerald-Spielberger draft value chart

Trade candidates

Every single player who isn’t in your long-term plans should be available. And that doesn’t just mean 2023. If you don’t think the player will be a high-impact contributor in 2024, they’re not worth keeping. If you’re not sure if you’ll want to extend them into 2024 and beyond, explore the trade market. 

WR Robbie Anderson 

Carolina got off to a quick start, moving Anderson to the Arizona Cardinals Monday morning after Anderson was seen arguing with several members of the Panthers coaching staff on the sidelines Sunday, ultimately getting sent to the locker room before the game ended by interim head coach Steve Wilks. 

This was the most obvious move, and the Panthers were smart to make it even though they only received a 2024 sixth-round and 2025 seventh-round pick. Anderson will count $9.7 million against the Panthers’ 2023 salary cap after his contract was restructured this offseason. 

C Bradley Bozeman

Bozeman was signed to a one-year, $2.8 million deal this offseason but is currently playing behind versatile interior offensive lineman Pat Elflein. Several teams could use a center due to offensive line injuries occurring across the NFL to start the season. 

  • Houston Texans center Justin Britt is dealing with a personal situation that has him away from the team at the moment, and the team’s 46.7 grade at the position thus far ranks 30th. The Panthers and Texans run a similar amount of inside zone, man and power run concepts. 
  • New York Giants center Jon Feliciano has logged far more snaps at guard than center over his career, and his 48.8 grade at center currently ranks 32nd out of 37 qualifying centers. There’s the added benefit of bolstering depth in addition to potentially improving at a starting spot. Bozeman also spent four years in Baltimore with now-Giants defensive coordinator Wink Martindale, so there’s some familiarity with the coaching staff. 

Hypothetical trade: Texans send 2023 seventh-round pick

T Cameron Erving

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