Is the Panthers McCaffrey combination about to end?
The Carolina Panthers pulled the Break Glass in case of Emergency lever in getting rid of Head Coach Matt Rhule. That despite four years left on a seven-year deal. While it was inevitable, it is far from the only question to answer in Charlotte.
The Panthers sit at the bottom of a very winnable division, having won one of their first five games. Matt Rhule finished with a record of 11-27. The team is no further on the road to recovery than when he started. It is five years since the Panthers had a winning record. he team is 39-58 since losing the Super Bowl in early 2016.
Who’s the long-term Quarterback?
The Panthers have made two separate trades for two of the top three picks in the 2018 draft. Neither Baker Mayfield, nor Sam Darnold, appear to be the long-term option for the Panthers. The pair have cost the Panthers a second-round pick, two fourths and a sixth-round pick. Neither are under contract for next year.
Undrafted free agent PJ Walker has been solid in relief but once again doesn’t appear to be a franchise Quarterback. Carolina is currently projected to have the first overall pick, although four other teams also have one win. That leaves the Panthers in the running for the pick of QBs graduating to the NFL. Sadly though, this crop has failed to live up to expectations so far in 2022.
There is also another problem with gambling on a quarterback in 2023….
Where is the talent on the roster?
The Panthers have one of the most talent-poor rosters in the NFL. Beyond Christian McCaffrey, there is a real lack of star power in the team, with Jaycee Horn, currently injured, the next most notable player outside of quarterback. Which leaves the Panthers McCaffrey as the lone star.
The team is full of journeymen players and college flameouts. A real concern is that, despite the lack of ability, there are only seven rookies on the team, only one of which is currently starting. That points to a lack of developmental potential on the current roster.
Drafting a QB now would surely be a risky move given the lack of supporting talent. The key question is whether Ikem Ekwonu can be the protector of any investment under centre.
What now for Christian McCaffrey?
It has to be expected that Christian McCaffrey is on the market. Carolina are listening to offers but want to keep their 1000/1000 running back in order to attract other talent and their next head coach.
The bigger issue is, while the Panthers McCaffrey is under contract until 2025, his cap hit is about to go through the roof, costing $19.5M i 2023-4 and $15M in 2025. That is a lot of money for a player who has played 15 games since the start of the pandemic.
That being said, a second first round pick would be critical to the Panthers progression, if they can get that value.
Who’s the next Head Coach?
Currently there are no stand out head coaching candidates. Mike McCarthy looked to be on the hot seat at the start of the season. However, the Cowboys’ strong start will have gained him some job security.
Sean Payton is not currently coaching but would he really move to the Saints’division rival? What’s more, without a star-studded roster, and particularly without a franchise QB under contract for 2023, the Panthers will be a tough sell compared to other teams changing head coaches in January.
Image: Jacob Kupferman/AP
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