The Carolina Panthers are firmly in the quarterback market and have a couple of different avenues for how they can address this need before the start of the 2023 season. One route is grabbing a young signal-caller at the 2023 NFL Draft where the Panthers currently pick No. 9 overall. The other is by dipping into the open market, and they have already treaded into those waters with former Raiders quarterback Derek Carr.
Due to Carr being released by Las Vegas earlier this offseason, he's been able to meet with teams and get a leg up on the rest of the free agent pool before the start of the new league year, which Carolina has taken advantage of. Panthers head coach Frank Reich and GM Scott Fitterer wereto meet with Carr at the NFL Scouting Combine this week, and it appears they've come away from that session impressed.
"Derek is an excellent leader. He's an excellent passer," Reich said Wednesday, via NFL.com. "He's very accomplished. You look at the fit, how does he fit with our team and our locker room? He checks a lot of boxes, no question. That's why he is where he is at this point in his career, and the opportunity -- it's a unique opportunity to talk to someone of that caliber as a player and a person. So we didn't take that for granted."
This was the first interaction between Carr and the Panthers. The two other reported teams in the running for him -- the Jets and Saints -- previously hosted him on visits prior to reportedly meeting again at the combine.
For Carolina, this is an interesting fork in the road for the franchise. While the Panthers could technically sign Carr and draft a quarterback at No. 9, that doesn't really help them build a stable club. So, they'll have to make the decision of either going young at the position on rolling with the veteran in Carr.
Both Reich and the Panthers have rode the veteran QB carousel in recent years. The former Colts head coach saw a revolving door of quarterbacks during his time in Indy, which included Phillip Rivers, Carson Wentz and Matt Ryan among others. Meanwhile, Carolina has gone through Sam Darnold and Baker Mayfield over the past two seasons. With that in mind, it wouldn't be shocking to see the team opt for a young quarterback and build from the ground up, but it's also possible Carr has them willing to roll the dice one more time.
"Whatever decision we make is what is best, not just for this year, but you're looking on the horizon," Reich said. "Obviously, if you draft a guy, you're looking on a very long-term horizon. If you go free agent, if you go Derek Carr, the nice thing with Derek, he's going to be 32 years old. It's kind of prime quarterback years. There's still a good five-year window there. Sure, we're like every team: We want to win the division next year. But you really have to look beyond that as well."