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Niles North High School | Skokie, IL

North Star News

Niles North High School | Skokie, IL

North Star News

A close look at the trade that killed the Carolina Panthers


It was a chilly spring evening in Indianapolis, Day 7 of the 2023 NFL Combine. Ohio State’s CJ Stroud lights up the field with 60-yard bombs and Florida’s Anthony Richardson leaves behind a smoking trail with a 4.44-second 40-yard dash. But Carolina Panthers GM Scott Fitterer has his eyes on someone else: the 5’9”, 190-pound QB from Alabama, Bryce Young. He’s off to the side in street clothes and a backpack, the only QB to opt out of participating. But to Fitterer, it didn’t matter. He had seen enough of the five-star prospect already, and how he carried himself both on and off the field. With the ninth overall pick, however, he was on the outside looking in. Not for long.

Fitterer knocks on Bears GM Ryan Poles’ hotel room. The two men know each other well. Having both worked as longtime road scouts for the Seahawks and Chiefs respectively, their paths crossed often. So, it wasn’t hard for the two to find ground in trade negotiations. Poles had something Fitterer wanted: the first-overall draft pick, and the ability to ensure Bryce Young as a Panther. The aggressive and eager 38-year-old Poles made it clear it wouldn’t be cheap, and Fitterer was willing to overpay.

6 days later, they found a deal. The Panthers would be getting the first-overall pick in return for their ninth-overall pick, star wide receiver DJ Moore, a 2024 first-round pick, and a 2025 second-round pick. Even at the time, it was a heavily scrutinized trade, but it isn’t hard to see why Fitterer pull the trigger. Ever since Cam Newton’s deterioration and eventual departure in 2019, the Panthers have been rotating a wheel of mediocre backup-caliber quarterbacks. Teddy Bridgewater, P.J. Walker, Sam Darnold, a short-lived Cam Newton return, and Baker Mayfield, all under center at one point or another. They were in limbo, each losing season passing by with no future. Fitterer saw Young as the Panthers’ ticket out of franchise poverty, and he gave up whatever it took to get him.

Sunday, November 5, Week 9 of the NFL; the Texans jump to 4-4 and the Panthers fall to 1-7. CJ Stroud throws for 470 yards and 5 touchdowns. Bryce Young throws for 173 yards, 1 touchdown, and 3 interceptions. The conversation surrounding CJ Stroud is whether he’s a top 10 QB in the league. The conversation surrounding Bryce Young is whether he should be benched. Many have declared Young as a bust, and maybe he is. Many say the Panthers made the wrong pick, and they probably did. But to take the Panthers’ abysmal season as an indictment of Bryce Young as a player would be missing the point, even if there’s a level of validity to it. Fitterer cornered the Panthers with his passionate and ballsy but ultimately doomed gamble for the first-overall pick.

Their season is a disaster, and without purpose, as their first-round pick next year will be going to the Bears, as well as their 2025 second-round pick. Without DJ Moore, they have the worst receiving core in the league led by a 33-year-old Adam Thielen whose on the brink of retirement. Their offensive line is weak and their running unit is aged and subpar.

There’s no pathway to success for the Panthers, they’re completely handicapped. It would’ve played out just the same way with Stroud, or Richardson, or whoever. Their fate was signed, sealed, and delivered the moment Fitterer made the move to trade up. The Panther’s situation isn’t the effect of Bryce Young, it was the cost for him.

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About the Contributor
Sam Dababneh
Sam Dababneh, Review Editor & Asst. Sports Editor
Sam Dababneh is a Sophmore at Niles North High school. This is his second year on North Star News.

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