NFL trade deadline: How Panthers can make themselves better

Carolina Panthers cornerback Donte Jackson celebrates after returning an intercepted pass for a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams Sunday, Oct. 16, 2022, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

Carolina Panthers cornerback Donte Jackson celebrates after returning an intercepted pass for a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams Sunday, Oct. 16, 2022, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)


Coming off a heartbreaking overtime loss to the Atlanta Falcons, the Carolina Panthers are at a fork in the road.

With Tuesday’s trade deadline lingering (Nov. 1, 4 p.m.), the Panthers (2-6) could look to sell off notable assets for future gains, or they could feel they’re close enough to contending in the lowly NFC South and look to acquire talent.

The team has already shipped off running back Christian McCaffrey and wideout Robbie Anderson to the NFC West for six combined draft picks this season. With GM Scott Fitterer looking to bulk up the team’s draft assets, another player (or two) could follow McCaffrey and Anderson out the door.

Fitterer said following the McCaffrey trade that he had players he wanted to keep around for a long time. Most of those players are on defense, but wideout D.J. Moore factors into the future building block category, as well.

According to a league source, barring a sensational offer, the Panthers are expected to keep young franchise cornerstones like Moore, defensive end Brian Burns and defensive tackle Derrick Brown.

However, there are still plenty of notable players who could be up grabs on the Panthers’ roster this week.

Potential trade assets for Panthers

The Panthers want to keep pieces in place to entice a future head coach to take on their team. Carolina needs to appeal to candidates, so holding onto the likes of Moore, Burns and Brown is a logical step towards becoming a draw to notable names on the coaching carousel.

However, the Panthers are a young squad with role players who should be up for grabs for the right price. At 2-6, the team isn’t a contender, and following the firing of Matt Rhule, they should be looking towards the future regardless of the desire to win now.

CB Donte Jackson

Jackson has been an inconsistent playmaker in the secondary during his five-year career with the Panthers. But with 40 pass breakups and 14 interceptions on his resume — including an impressive one-handed pick against the Falcons — Jackson should appeal to contending teams as a No. 2 cornerback. Jackson is only 27 and has two affordable years left on his second NFL contract.

A team acquiring Jackson would not only have him for a playoff run, but also for two more seasons at an annual rate of $8.72 million. The Panthers would gain $2.43 million in cap space while incurring $3.66 million in dead money. However, they’d be off the hook for Jackson’s $4.72 million base salary and $4 million roster bonus in each of the next two years.

A fourth-round pick and maybe a bit more window dressing (2024 sixth-round pick?) could make sense in an exchange for Jackson.

OT Cam Erving

The Panthers’ swing tackle has been an asset in the development of first-round pick Ikem Ekwonu this season. However, a 2-6 team isn’t really in need of a top-tier swing tackle when it comes to the future.

With so many offensive line injuries around the league, Erving — who can play all five positions — should appeal to a potential playoff team. He won’t cost as much as Philadelphia Eagles swing tackle Andre Dillard, and he actually offers up more versatility from a depth perspective.

Trading the 30-year-old offensive line would net the Panthers roughly $4 million in cap space to roll over for next year. The Panthers have received in interest in Erving, according to a league source, and his value could help Fitterer add another Day 3 pick to the 2023 fold.

Carolina Panthers defensive end Marquis Haynes, right, runs toward the end zone after recovering a fumble and returning it 44 yards for a touchdown against the New Orleans Saints at Bank of America Stadium on Sunday, September 25, 2022 in Charlotte, NC. Melissa Melvin-Rodriguez

DE Marquis Haynes

Rotational pass rushers are a key ingredient for playoff contenders. Most defensive coordinators want to keep their EDGE rushers fresh with a heavy rotation. While Haynes hasn’t put up stellar numbers this season — 13 tackles and four QB hits through eight games — he could be seen as a better scheme fit elsewhere. Teams like the New York Giants, New York Jets and Minnesota Vikings are surging toward surprise playoff berths and all three squads could use improved depth on the edge.

Haynes, 29, is a cheap veteran option that could likely warrant a late-round pick swap for a contender. He is also signed through 2023 at a low cost — even with some notable bonuses baked into the contract — which should make him even more appealing to a potential acquiring team.

The Panthers would gain $1.45 million in cap space by trading Haynes, and they’d be off the hook for $1.2 million in roster and workout bonuses in 2023.

Potential trade targets for Panthers

At 2-6, most teams would choose to be sellers at the deadline. Still, if a team is trying to build for the future, the GM should consider all means of future growth.

Trading for a young player on a rookie contract could be a wise choice for a potential rebuilding roster. If Fitterer can find a player in his 20s who is signed to a contract that lasts beyond this season, he should consider making that move, pending the potential cost.

ARCHIVO – El wide receiver Elijah Moore, de los Jets de Nueva York, en partido de pretemporada el viernes 12 de agosto de 2022, en Filadelfia. (AP Foto/Matt Rourke, archivo) Matt Rourke AP

WR Elijah Moore

Moore reportedly asked for a trade a couple of weeks ago, and the Jets denied that request. However, the Jets, a contending squad in the AFC East, chose to play Denzel Mims over Moore on Sunday against the New England Patriots. Moore probably won’t be dealt because the Jets are contending, but if the Panthers can offer the right price, maybe Fitterer can get ahead of his 2023 roster-building expedition.

Through 18 games (11 starts), Moore, 22, has caught 59 passes for 741 yards and five touchdowns. As a deep threat, he would be an excellent complement to D.J. Moore and Terrace Marshall Jr. in the passing game.

TE T.J. Hockensen

This option would be pricey but prudent. The Panthers badly need a playmaker at tight end, and Hockensen is among the best in the league at the position. With the Detroit Lions bottoming out (again), it would make sense for them to look to get a McCaffrey-like deal for Hockensen.

The veteran tight end is signed through 2023 and has a $9.39 million salary in the final year of his rookie deal. If the Panthers want to take a big swing, they could try to trade for Hockensen and then immediately sign him to a massive contract extension to lower his cap hit. Hockensen would be a cornerstone player for the Panthers, and with Carolina having two 2023 second-round picks, perhaps they could use one of them — and maybe a fourth-round pick — to upgrade their offense.

S Desmond King

The Panthers’ secondary has been a revolving door all season due to injuries and inconsistent play. While Myles Hartsfield has done a solid job as a nickel/safety hybrid player, King could be an upgrade in that department.

The Houston Texans are bottoming out and King could fetch them a potential late-round pick swap. The Panthers could retain their number of picks but acquire King by dropping down a round or two in the process.

King is a versatile playmaker who has great ball skills. He can also return punts. At 29, King has eight interceptions on his resume, and he is signed through 2023. King has a salary of $3 million next season with only $500,000 in guaranteed cash remaining.

PanthersTexansFootball (2).JPG
Carolina Panthers running back Chuba Hubbard, center, is tackled by Houston Texans’ Zach Cunningham (41) and Desmond King II during the first half of an NFL football game Thursday, Sept. 23, 2021, in Houston. Eric Christian Smith AP

Panthers on the waiver wire

Following their loss to the Falcons, the Panthers are 2-6, a record that is tied with two other squads: the Pittsburgh Steelers and Jacksonville Jaguars.

However, according to Tankathon, the Panthers have the weakest strength of schedule among the trio of 2-6 squads, giving Carolina priority on the waiver wire.

With the Lions (1-6) and Texans (1-5-1) at the bottom the league standings, the Panthers are projected to have the third overall priority once the waiver wire resets its order on Wednesday.

Following the trade deadline, all players released by teams are subject to the waiver wire. Throughout the majority of the calendar year, vested veterans — players with four or more accrued years of experience — are immune to the wire and simply become free agents following their release. However, following the deadline, veterans are placed on the waiver wire until the start of the new league year in March.

Panthers’ next two drafts

If the Panthers decide to chase after talent before the trade deadline, they’ll have the ammo to do so, especially following the McCaffrey trade.

The Panthers acquired four picks from the San Francisco 49ers for McCaffrey, which helped them balance out their draft situation over the next two offseasons. The Panthers have seven picks in next year’s draft and seven picks in the 2024 draft.

2023 NFL Draft

▪ First-round pick (CAR)

▪ Two second-round picks (CAR/SF)

▪ Third-round pick (SF)

▪ Two fourth-round picks (CAR/SF)

▪ Fifth-round pick (CAR)

2024 NFL Draft

▪ First-round pick (CAR)

▪ Second-round pick (CAR)

▪ Third-round pick (CAR)

▪ Fourth-round pick (CAR)*

▪ Two fifth-round picks (TEN/SF)

▪ Sixth-round pick (AZ)

* The Panthers traded a conditional 2024 fifth-round pick to the Cleveland Browns for quarterback Baker Mayfield in July. That pick could turn into a fourth-round pick if Mayfield plays 75% of the Panthers’ offensive snaps on the season.

If Mayfield were to reach those conditions, the Browns would receive the Panthers’ fourth-round pick and Carolina would have three fifth-round picks, instead of a fourth-round pick and two fifth-round picks.

This story was originally published October 31, 2022 1:25 PM.

Mike Kaye covers the Carolina Panthers for The Charlotte Observer. Kaye previously covered the entire NFL for Pro Football Network, the Philadelphia Eagles for NJ Advance Media and the Jacksonville Jaguars for First Coast News. He is a graduate of the University of North Florida.

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