Panthers mailbag: Are 3 first-round picks and McCaffrey too much to trade for Watson?

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Jonathan M. Alexander, Alaina Getzenberg
·5 min read
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The Carolina Panthers have been among the busiest NFL teams this offseason.

Last week, they released safety Tre Boston, punter Michael Palardy and defensive end Stephen Weatherly, and restructured the contract of center Matt Paradis.

Two weeks ago, the Panthers released Kawann Short. By the time free agency starts, barring any further moves, the Panthers should have about $31.5 million in salary cap space.

With that news comes speculation and questions about the quarterback.

Now, on to your questions:

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@jrand3 asks: Does Christian Miller fit into their plans for 2021?

It’s hard to tell at this point. But when Miller chose to opt out of the 2020 season, his contract was deferred one year. Now his contract expires in 2023.

If Miller does decide to come back for the 2021 season, I could see him being in the Panthers’ plans. For one, the Panthers need an edge rusher and Miller could possibly provide that depth.

He had two sacks in seven games during his rookie season. That is more than former Panthers defensive end Stephen Weatherly had in nine games in 2020. Carolina released Weatherly last week. Miller won’t cost much against the Panthers’ cap. His salary cap number for 2021 would be a little more than $1 million, according to overthecap.com.

So it makes sense for him to fit into their plans. However, Miller would have to decide that he wants to come back — and the world might still be in the midst of a pandemic when the 2021 season begins.

JMA

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@StupidNerdGuy asks: Even if they franchise (Taylor) Moton, do you see them getting a long-term deal done before the season?

The franchise tag is still an option for the Panthers to use on right tackle Taylor Moton, but a long-term deal is not out of the realm of possibilities as well.

Moton will still want to be paid what he and his team view as appropriate. With the cap situation down this year, the Panthers still have plenty of needs to address and less money to do it with, as does every team around the league. In an ideal world, the Panthers and Moton would both love to come together and sign him to a long-term deal, but it’s more complicated than that.

It will depend on how the Panthers want to spend the rest of their money, if getting a trade done for Deshaun Watson is realistic and how the team views the tackle position in the draft. I think it’s plausible that a deal could get done, but I wouldn’t guarantee it. Moton could choose to gamble that he could get a larger contract in a likely more normal cap year in 2022. There are more factors involved than interest from both sides.

Check out The Observer’s full offensive line breakdown: Panthers can franchise tag Taylor Moton today. What that means for him and the O-Line

— AG

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@b_launders asks: What is the plan going ahead regarding QB? They stick with Teddy or try to unload him while using a draft pick on one?

I think all options are on the table at this point, whether that is trying to trade for a quarterback, drafting one or sticking with Bridgewater for another year.

I don’t think there’s one plan, because there isn’t a guarantee that plan could come to fruition.

For instance, there is no guarantee the Panthers will get Deshaun Watson.

And if Carolina drafts, say, Trey Lance, Bridgewater may end up starting Week 1, while Lance learns and develops.

There’s also the chance that the top four teams in the draft take one of the top four quarterbacks — Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, Zach Wilson and Lance.

Some draft experts believe Mac Jones would be a reach at No. 8, and perhaps the Panthers decide to go in a different direction other than quarterback. In that case, the team may have to hold onto Bridgewater.

JMA

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@NastyNate84 asks: Is 3 first round picks and Christian McCaffrey too much for Watson?

I think it depends on which first round picks. If the Panthers could somehow spread out those first round picks instead of giving up picks in consecutive years, then I wouldn’t be mad at that type of deal.

I do think Watson is a once-in-a-generation talent who could continue to be a great quarterback for the next 10 to 15 years.

However, I’d be nervous about giving up too many first-round draft picks, because it would stymie the Panthers’ ability to keep building.

Say Watson suffers an injury, or requests a trade, or Carolina is unable to pay him — then what?

I’ve said this numerous times. I don’t think the Panthers are a franchise quarterback away from the playoffs. They have many holes that free agency won’t be able to fix.

So three first-round picks spread out, along with McCaffrey, would likely be the most I’d be willing give up. I think the short shelf life of running backs and McCaffrey’s big contract is why I’d be OK with parting ways with him.

But I’m not giving up Brian Burns or Jeremy Chinn, which I think the Texans would also ask for in a trade. Watson is too valuable and it’s not like the Texans are just going to give him away.

JMA