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McCaffrey trade impacts Panthers ability to rebuild offense – Carolina Panthers Blog

CHARLOTTE, NC — Carolina Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer spent the offseason trying to put together a roster that could challenge for a championship if he dropped the right quarterback into the mix as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers did it with Tom Brady in 2020.

“I think we’re a lot closer this year than we were last year or the last two years,” Fitterer said during the offseason.

Defensively, it’s going.

Offensively, it’s not close.

If anything, it was a complete failure.

But getting there in the next two years may be more realistic after Thursday’s running back trade Christian McCaffrey to the San Francisco 49ers who picked up three draft picks in 2023 (second, third and fourth rounds) and one in 2024 (fifth round) to give Fitterer the maneuverability to draft a quarterback with a first pick next year .

“There’s a lot to build on defensively,” Fitterer said Friday. “We rebuilt the offensive line, which is the most important thing when you bring in a young quarterback. … We keep building to move forward where we can drop that quarterback and go. ”

In other words, the experience to drop the #1 overall pick in 2018 Mayfield Baker in this year’s roster hasn’t worked out and the Panthers will likely focus on a strong 2023 quarterback draft class led by Kentucky Will Levisfrom Alabama Bryce Young and Ohio State C.J. Stroud to save the day.

To be clear, the quarterback’s play wasn’t the only problem in their 1-5 start, making it more of a rebuild than just a fix. And beyond the players, the Panthers will likely have to hire a whole new coaching staff to replace Matt Rhule, who was fired because interim coach Steve Wilks doesn’t have enough talented players to have the ” amazing” showing owner David Tepper said he would. want to see for Wilks to get rid of the “acting” tag.

Heading into Sunday’s game against the Buccaneers (1 p.m. ET, Fox), the rebuilt offensive line ranks 30th in passing block success rate and 28th in running block win rate, data shows. ESPN Stats & Info.

And now they’re without McCaffrey and wide receiver Robbie Andersonwho was traded to the Arizona Cardinals on Monday after being ejected in Sunday’s 24-10 loss to the Los Angeles Rams by Wilks.

Even someone like Brady, a future Hall of Famer with seven Super Bowl rings, is unlikely to make Carolina a playoff contender with this roster. His current struggles with Tampa Bay (3-3), with the Bucs losing in three of their last four games, even show he needs help.

“The short answer is no,” NFL Hall of Fame manager Bill Polian said of whether Carolina’s roster is close to being championship-caliber with a good quarterback. “They are far away.”

Here are some reasons:

The overall offense

Carolina ranks last in the NFL in total offense (260 YPG) and 28th in scoring (17.2 PPG). Even with McCaffrey healthy for all six games, the team’s 90.3 rushing yards per game is better than just six teams, including the last-place Bucs at 67.5 YPG.

Only three teams have fewer passing yards per game than Carolina’s 169.7.

The third try is a huge problem. Carolina ranks last in conversion rate at 23.6 and has the fewest plays in the NFL with 323, or 53.8 per game.

“There are a lot of pieces you should have in place for what happened in Tampa to happen, especially with a veteran quarterback,” Polian said, referring to the Bucs winning the Super Bowl during Brady’s first season with the team.

Wide Receivers

from carolina DJ Moore and Stefan Diggs of the Buffalo Bills are the only wide receivers to have rushed for at least 1,100 yards in the past three seasons.

In six games this season, Diggs has 49 catches for 656 yards and 6 touchdowns.

Five Carolina receivers combined for 47 catches for 635 yards and 3 touchdowns. Take Anderson’s 13 catches for 206 yards and 1 touchdown, now that he’s gone, and that drops to 44 catches for 430 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Moore has just 20 catches for 204 yards and 1 touchdown.

What seemed like a strength at the start of the season is now a weakness.

“They’ve only got one receiver in Moore who’s a high-flying guy,” Polian said.

tight ends

Ian Thomas, known for his blocking, leads the Panthers with 10 catches on 16 targets for 115 yards and 0 touchdowns. This ranks 40th in the league.

Former head coach Matt Rhule, fired last week, thought he was picked in the third round in 2021 Tommy Aspen would eventually emerge, but he’s only got 5 catches for 42 yards and 0 touchdowns this season.

“It’s probably a [No. 2] at best,” Polian said of Aspen. “There’s no one like the guy who [quarterback] Cam [Newton] had in [tight end] Greg Olsen, which is important for a young man or a small man like Mayfield.

Newton and Olsen were one of the best tight quarterback combinations in the NFL between Newton’s rookie season in 2011 and 2016. Olsen averaged 71 catches, 897.3 yards and 5.3 touchdowns during that span .

Brady had Rob Gronkowski during his 2020 Super Bowl run. Gronkowski had 45 catches for 623 yards and seven touchdowns. Tampa Bay tight ends had 11 touchdowns that season.

Another missing piece.

The offensive line

Beyond the statistics mentioned above, Polian never believed Ikem Ekwonu was a true left tackle when the Panthers made him the No. 6 overall in the 2022 draft.

“The line is better than last year, but I’m worried about Ickey as left tackle,” Polian said. “He’s a phenomenal guard and maybe a right tackle, but I don’t know if he’s a left tackle.”

Strategist

Carolina quarterbacks who have fallen into the roster this season have failed. Mayfield had a 15.5 total QBR through the first five games before being sidelined with an ankle injury that will rule him out again on Sunday. He is heading for the worst careers in almost every statistical category.

PJ Walker, who will make his second straight start this week and retain his job if he excels, did no better last Sunday. He completed 10 of 16 pass attempts for 60 yards, giving him a total QBR of 5.6.

“Things didn’t happen and gel as quickly as we would like,” offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo said. “It’s pretty obvious. But I’m not discouraged.”

finance

On the plus side, the Panthers have 20 of 22 starters under contract for next season. Quarterback and defensive tackle Matt Ioannidis are the only exceptions.

But considering Carolina is 1-5 with those starters, that’s not a big plus. The Panthers are also not expected to have much salary cap room in 2023 to sign big free agents without cutting some, although McCaffrey’s 2023 cap overshoot of $19,550,750 has helped. .

According to Spotrac data prior to the trade, they ranked 26th in the NFL in estimated cap space with less than $4,708,627.

Samir Suleiman, vice-president of football administration, told the team’s website this week that a plan was in place. It has conservatively projected over $80 million in ceiling space in 2024 and $145 million in 2025.

But that’s two years away, and fans are already looking forward to the start of this season after four consecutive losing seasons.

Will the 2023 draft help?

The picks Carolina got for McCaffrey will go a long way in building the future. Beyond those, they have four more in 2023 (first, second, fourth and fifth rounds) and six in 2024 (one each in the first six rounds).

Their 2023 first-rounder could end up being a top-three pick and will likely have to be used on a quarterback, since Mayfield and Sam Darnold are in the final year of their respective contracts and neither has performed well enough to earn a new contract.

Luckily for Carolina, they are a solid class of quarterbacks. But with young quarterbacks, there are usually growing pains. It took Newton three years to earn a winning season after Carolina selected him No. 1 overall in 2011. Buffalo’s Josh Allen was 5-6 in his first season (2018) before making the Bills a permanent playoff contender in his second season.

Then there are those like Carolina’s Mayfield and Darnold — the first and third overall picks, respectively — of the 2018 draft. Mayfield has just one winning season, 11-5 in 2020, and Darnold has none.

So dropping a rookie into the mix probably wouldn’t be a quick fix either.