<
>

Who are the Panthers' four most likely trade partners for the No. 8 pick?

play
The case for the Panthers to still draft Justin Fields (0:58)

Mike Tannenbaum explains why the Panthers should still draft Justin Fields even after acquiring Sam Darnold from the Jets. (0:58)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Beyond discovering Carolina Panthers coach Matt Rhule is a fan of the Dave Matthews Band and doesn’t like pickled eggs, we learned on the team’s pre-draft news conference that general manager Scott Fitterer is “very open to moving back’’ from the eighth pick in the NFL draft (8 p.m. ET Thursday, ABC/ESPN/ESPN App) and he's already had talks with “at least five teams.’’

This shouldn't come as a surprise, since Fitterer came from a Seattle organization that traded back or out of the first round in eight consecutive drafts before last year. It also isn’t a surprise because the Panthers likely won’t get the three players that could help them the most at No. 8.

Since Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence is going to Jacksonville at No. 1, those three would be Florida tight end Kyle Pitts, LSU wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase and Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell.

If one of those players is there at No. 8, there likely will be no discussion of trading back.

While Fitterer admits the Panthers remain open to selecting a quarterback, his best ammunition to add picks is to trade with a team seeking one of the top five quarterbacks that doesn’t go in the top three. That’s likely to be Ohio State’s Justin Fields, Alabama’s Mac Jones or North Dakota State's Trey Lance.

The teams most interested in a quarterback are the Denver Broncos at No. 9, New England Patriots at 15, Washington Football Team at 19 and Chicago Bears at 20.

As Fitterer acknowledged, “there’ll be a lot more calls this week.’’

And not all will be looking to trade up for a quarterback.

Ideally, the Panthers would like to add several picks to replenish those sent to the New York Jets in the trade for quarterback Sam Darnold -- a late sixth-rounder this year, and second- and fourth-rounders in 2022.

If a team is going to risk overpaying to move up, it likely would be for a quarterback. Just don’t expect another deal as rich as San Francisco giving Miami the 12th pick, a first- and third-rounder in 2022 and a first-rounder in 2023 for the third pick.

In the common draft era (since 1967), there have been 29 trades up for a first-round quarterback -- 24 of which involved swapping solely draft picks.

For proper context, let’s look at some recent trades made to draft a quarterback, good and bad.

• In 2017, Chicago traded picks Nos. 3, 67 and 111 to San Francisco to move up one spot to select Mitchell Trubisky.

• Also in 2017, Kansas City gave Buffalo the No. 27 pick, a third-rounder in 2017 and a first-rounder in 2018 to move to No. 10 to take Patrick Mahomes.

• In 2018, the Jets sent picks 6, 37, 52, 169 and a second-rounder in 2019 to Indianapolis for the third pick to select Darnold.

• Also in 2018, Buffalo traded the No. 12 pick and two second-rounders (53, 56) to Jacksonville to move to No. 7 for Josh Allen.

So, how far back might the Panthers be willing to move?

“We don’t want to trade out to beyond a certain level where the talent dips,’’ Fitterer said.

Fitterer is of the belief there’s a drop-off every year somewhere between picks 15 and 19. The Panthers have 16 players with a first-round grade this year.

On the flip side, Fitterer said the second round talent is “really strong.’’

So what could the Panthers realistically receive in exchange for the eighth pick? I reached out to ESPN.com NFL Nation reporters in Denver (Jeff Legwold), New England (Mike Reiss), Washington (John Keim) and Chicago (Jeff Dickerson) to get their takes.

Denver (9): The Broncos haven’t had discussions about trading up yet, but have had talks about trading down. They likely wouldn’t offer much to move up one spot, regardless. They would likely be more interested in trading for Teddy Bridgewater, but only if his contract was renegotiated. Bridgewater, Carolina’s starter last season, is guaranteed $10 million and his current 2021 cap hit is $22.9 million.

New England (15): This is the most ideal spot to trade back because Carolina likely still would get one of the top three cornerbacks -- Alabama’s Patrick Surtain II, South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn and Virginia Tech’s Caleb Farley. Here’s the snag. Coach Bill Belichick has made 14 trades involving a move up or down in the first round with New England, but he’s never drafted a quarterback in the first round or moved into the top 10. Having Tom Brady most of that time has to be factored in. So if the Patriots are high on a quarterback, a trade to 8 could happen, there's just not a high percentage of it. And since Belichick has referenced the Jimmy Johnson draft-value chart in the past, it’s doubtful New England would give up more than the 15th pick and a second-rounder (46), despite having 10 picks in this draft.

Washington (19): It wouldn’t be the first time Washington coach Ron Rivera traded with his former team. He sent a fifth-round pick here last season for quarterback Kyle Allen. Washington also offered a first- and third-rounder this offseason to Detroit for Matthew Stafford, who ultimately went to the Rams. There could be a scenario where Washington would make a run at Fields, but likely not with a huge offer. Perhaps picks 19, 51 and one of the team’s third-rounders (74 or 82), along with a second-round pick next year.

Chicago (20): The Bears are far from settled at quarterback with Andy Dalton penciled in as the starter and Nick Foles behind him. Coach Matt Nagy attended workouts for Jones and Fields, so there is interest in moving up for a long-term fix. The 20th pick is beyond Fitterer’s stated range for an immediate difference-maker, but the Bears could be willing to throw in a 2022 first-rounder and perhaps another pick in either ’21 or '22 to make it enticing.