Bryce Young

Panthers HC Frank Reich, GM Scott Fitterer On Hot Seat

Last year, the Panthers fired Matt Rhule after a 1-4 start. Interim HC Steve Wilks then led the team to a 6-6 finish that left it still in the NFC South race until Week 17. Despite many of the same cornerstone players in place, Carolina’s 2023 edition has the NFL’s worst record.

Trading up significant assets to secure Bryce Young at No. 1 overall, the Panthers were never viewed as a team that would truly contend this season. But their disappointing first half has many around the league wondering if David Tepper will bail on the power structure he signed off on in January. One member of Carolina’s power duo may be on a hotter seat than the other, but both Frank Reich and GM Scott Fitterer do not appear certain to retain their jobs beyond this season.

Many around the NFL are eyeing this situation, with the Washington Post’s Jason La Canfora noting there is a strong sense Reich will become a one-and-done. Even within the Panthers’ building, La Canfora adds the belief is jobs are on the line going into the season’s second half. This would be a stunning flip-flop from ownership — especially after Rhule went from receiving a seven-year contract to being canned after Week 5 of his third season — but Tepper has not exactly gained a reputation for stability during his early years running the NFC South team. Indeed, Tepper’s reputation is driving the speculation Reich will be canned after just one season, Sportskeeda’s Tony Pauline adds.

Tepper is believed to be irked by Young’s performance thus far, an NFL personnel exec informed La Canfora while adding the sixth-year owner drove the bus for the Alabama prospect. When the Panthers obtained the No. 1 overall pick, rumors of Reich preferring C.J. Stroud surfaced. Those steadily faded, as Young won the organization over despite his slight frame. The Panthers have seen Stroud hit the ground running with the Texans, and despite Carolina’s only win coming over Houston, the team has taken significant steps back compared to how it finished in 2022.

Among qualified passers, Young ranks only ahead of Ryan Tannehill in QBR this season. The former Heisman winner sits last in yards per attempt — at just 5.4 — and has thrown eight touchdown passes compared to seven interceptions. Young’s struggles should probably have been expected, given Carolina’s skill-position deficiencies. The team gave Miles Sanders the top RB contract in free agency; Chuba Hubbard has since leapfrogged the ex-Eagle for the starting role. Adam Thielen has gone from Vikings cap casualty to the Panthers’ No. 1 target, in his age-33 season. Thielen has been productive in Carolina; no one else in this skill group has. Neither DJ Chark nor Hayden Hurst — the latter receiving the top tight end deal this offseason — has topped 230 receiving yards this year.

After pointing to Thomas Brown being in consideration to call plays this offseason, Reich handed the duties off during the team’s bye week. Three games in, Reich took back the reins from the young OC. The Panthers did not top 15 points in a game during Brown’s short run calling the shots, and while the veteran HC said this about-face is not indicative of Brown’s long-term future, the quick change was certainly notable.

Reich beat out Wilks for the Panthers’ top job, with Tepper preferring an offense-oriented HC. The five-year Colts leader is the Panthers’ first offense-geared sideline boss. Well respected, Reich being fired from two HC jobs in two years would undoubtedly drop him back to the coordinator tier moving forward. Reich, 61, did pull back the curtain a bit on Tepper’s style earlier this season by pointing to the owner being heavily involved in football operations via the two’s weekly meetings. After the experience Reich had with Jim Irsay in Indianapolis, this is familiar territory.

But Reich may also not be the likeliest Panthers power broker to go. Fitterer should not be expected to weather this storm, according to Pauline. Fitterer arrived in 2021 to work with Rhule, following a successful tenure as a Seahawks exec, and was left in power ahead of the 2022 trade deadline. The veteran staffer pulled the trigger on a Christian McCaffrey trade, giving the Panthers four draft choices, but did not accept a Rams offer of two first-rounders for Brian Burns. The young defensive end was not believed to have drawn similar interest at this year’s deadline, which came after the Panthers could not extend him this offseason. A franchise tag is now expected for Burns, but it is far from certain Tepper will have Fitterer making that call.

Some members of the Panthers’ organization do not believe this is a well-assembled roster, and the team’s 1-8 record supports that. Despite being in a seller’s position, the Panthers pursued wide receivers — months after trading longtime No. 1 target D.J. Moore — at the deadline. Fitterer, who took a backseat to Rhule, has final say over Carolina’s 53-man roster. The Panthers lost to a Bears team missing Justin Fields; Carolina being in position to potentially hand over the 2024 No. 1 pick to Chicago would present difficult optics for Fitterer, who received a vote of confidence from Tepper after the Rhule firing.

Tepper firing Reich after one season would not make this a particularly attractive job, though the owner’s past authorizing big contracts for HCs and paying top dollar for assistants will help. This will be a situation to monitor during the season’s second half.

Panthers Pursued WRs Davante Adams And Tee Higgins, DE Montez Sweat At Deadline

Despite a win-loss record that placed them squarely in the “sellers” category, we heard in the run-up to last month’s trade deadline that the Panthers were operating as both buyers and sellers. We also heard that Carolina was especially interested in acquiring a top-flight wide receiver, and to that end, David Newton of reports that the team pursued both the Raiders’ Davante Adams and the Bengals’ Tee Higgins, though neither club was willing to make a deal. Newton adds that GM Scott Fitterer also tried to acquire DE Montez Sweat, whom the Commanders ultimately traded to the Bears.

The early struggles of rookie quarterback Bryce Young, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, have created plenty of concern among the Panthers’ fanbase, especially since No. 2 overall pick C.J. Stroud is playing at a high level for the Texans and since Carolina paid such a premium for the privilege to climb up the draft board to select Young. However, Newton writes that head coach Frank Reich and general manager Scott Fitterer still believe their plan to trade high-end draft capital — including their 2024 first-round pick — and top receiver D.J. Moore was a sound one that will pay dividends in the future. Likewise, Dianna Russini of The Athletic (subscription required) says that the organization is still unified in the belief that Young is the long-term answer at quarterback.

In order to get the most out of Young, the Panthers understand that they need to give him more playmakers, which is why they pursued Adams and Higgins (they were not alone in that regard, as the Jets made a play for both receivers as well). Adams’ career accomplishments, which include six Pro Bowl nods and three First Team All-Pro selections, dwarf those of Higgins, who has not yet made a Pro Bowl. Nonetheless, Higgins is six years younger than Adams, is coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, and clearly has WR1 upside.

While Adams is under club control through 2026, Higgins is due to be a free agent at season’s end. If they had acquired the Clemson product, the Panthers would have needed to sign him to an extension or put the franchise tag on him, so his contract situation would have been a priority agenda item alongside a new deal (or franchise tag) for edge rusher Brian Burns. According to Newton, Carolina retained Burns through a second consecutive deadline in which he generated plenty of trade interest because the team views him and Young as foundational pieces of a future contender. Though the Panthers are presently without a 2024 first-rounder, they do have $42MM in projected cap space next season along with six other draft picks, and the plan is to turn those assets into talent to complement Burns and Young.

The latest reporting on the matter suggests that Burns and the Panthers are not actively engaged in contract talks, and Newton confirms prior reports that the two sides were far apart when negotiations stopped in December. If player and team cannot come to terms, Burns will be hit with the franchise tag, according to Newton.

If Fitterer were successful in his pursuit of Sweat, he certainly would have had a dynamic pair of pass rushers to headline his defense. However, Sweat was also in a contract year at the time of his trade and signed a lucrative extension shortly after arriving in Chicago, so the Panthers would have needed to authorize a similar contract for Sweat or quickly close the gap with Burns in order to assure themselves of the chance to retain both players.

As it stands, Fitterer & Co. will be able to focus most of their early offseason efforts on Burns’ new deal — if Fitterer is still around, that is. Per Russini, there are some members of the organization that believe the roster has not been assembled correctly, and owner David Tepper is frustrated by a Reich-orchestrated offense that league sources have described as “boring,” “predictable,” and “lifeless.” Reich, of course, was hired by Fitterer, and Russini says the “message in the building” is that ownership needs to see offensive improvement in the second half of the season.

If that does not happen, then Russini expects changes to be made. It is unclear if that simply means a shake-up to Reich’s offensive staff, or if Reich himself could be in jeopardy. It is fair to wonder whether Fitterer might also be on the hot seat, though ownership apparently is satisfied with how the defense and special teams units are performing.

More Raiders Fallout: McDaniels, Ziegler, Davis, Harbaugh, Brady, Kelly

When the Raiders begin the search for a new head coach and general manager to replace Josh McDaniels and Dave Ziegler, they could have a difficult time attracting the most desirable talent. Per Jeff Howe of The Athletic (subscription required), owner Mark Davis vowed that he would give the duo a minimum of three years to return the Raiders to contention, but he fired them midway through their second season. Once seen as a patient owner, Davis has undermined his reputation in that regard, and most of the coaches and execs that Howe spoke with believe that the quick trigger will have a negative impact on his search.

One executive said, “I don’t know who you’re going to convince to take those jobs. I think Mark Davis made it harder on himself,” while another added, “[i]t definitely makes the jobs less appealing.”

To be clear, Davis will likely have plenty of candidates to choose from thanks to the desirability and rarity of a top job in the NFL coaching and personnel ranks. Still, it would not be surprising for the biggest fish in the upcoming hiring cycle to rebuff Davis’ overtures.

“If you’re only going to give me two years, just be upfront and honest with me,” a rival coach said. “I can handle that. It’d change the entire way you’d try to build the team. If you’re thinking about setting up to take off and win by Year 3, that’s how you’re going to manage your roster.”

McDaniels, of course, is a proponent of “hard coaching,” and it appears he alienated many Raiders players with his demanding style. As Ian Rapoport of writes, players “ripped into” McDaniels during the team meeting in which he allowed his charges to air their grievances, and players were especially critical of (among other things) McDaniels’ micromanaging and the way he deflected blame for issues with play-calling. Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer adds that interim HC Antonio Pierce attempted to speak on behalf of McDaniels at that meeting, but Pierce’s use of the Super Bowl-winning Giants team he played on as an example of what a good locker room culture can do irked McDaniels, who was part of the Patriots squad that lost that title game to New York (video link).

At the following practice, McDaniels attempted to give the players what they wanted by being less involved and not “overcorrecting” by stepping in after every mistake. However, one source told Rapoport that the new approach did not suit McDaniels well, that the head coach looked like “a shell of himself,” and that it was clear McDaniels’ tenure was coming to an end. Ultimately, McDaniels was unable to recapture the team chemistry that Tony Pauline of believes was destroyed when quarterback and team leader Derek Carr was released earlier this year.

The driving force behind Carr’s departure remains a bit unclear. Rapoport’s sources say that Davis “led the push” to replace Carr, with McDaniels and Ziegler eventually getting on board, while Pauline says McDaniels was the one who wanted to move on from the franchise’s longtime passer. Back in late December/early January, it was reported that the McDaniels-Ziegler regime saw Carr as a poor fit in McDaniels’ offense, and that while McDaniels was prepared to let Carr play out the remainder of the 2022 campaign, Davis — who had been “lukewarm” on Carr for some time — wanted the QB to be benched for the last two games of the season.

Even if, as Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports suggests, Davis and the McDaniels-Ziegler duo were aligned on the Carr situation, subsequent quarterback-related missteps accelerated this week’s firings (although it should be noted, as Rapoport writes, that former club president Dan Ventrelle agreed to include in Carr’s 2022 extension the no-trade clause that undermined the Raiders’ leverage when they tried to deal Carr this past offseason. Ventrelle entered into that agreement with Carr’s camp prior to speaking with other club officials). We already heard that McDaniels’ decision to start former Patriots QB Brian Hoyer over rookie Aidan O’Connell in Week 7 rankled Davis, and obviously the decision to sign another of McDaniels’ former pupils, Jimmy Garoppolo, proved to be a poor one, as McDaniels apparently overestimated the ease with which Garoppolo would reacclimate to McDaniels’ offense.

On the subject of Garoppolo, Rapoport reminds us that the Raiders were among the teams that tried to trade up for the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft, with quarterback Bryce Young the target. However, McDaniels reportedly did not want to “grow with” a rookie signal-caller, so the Raiders stood down while the Panthers catapulted up the draft board to claim the No. 1 spot before free agency opened. McDaniels & Co. acquired Garoppolo shortly thereafter.

It has been an open secret that Ziegler, despite his general manager title, took a backseat to McDaniels in terms of personnel matters. Indeed, Pauline called Ziegler a “glorified scout” and likened the McDaniels-Ziegler pairing to the Jon-GrudenMike Mayock partnership that preceded it. So while Pauline reports that Davis will be interested in hiring University of Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, it is fair to wonder if that would be the best move for the owner to make. After all, Harbaugh would also want full autonomy over personnel decisions, and like Mayock and Ziegler, any GM brought in along with Harbaugh would be little more than a figurehead.

That is to say nothing of the fact that Harbaugh, who is currently dealing with allegations of an elaborate sign-stealing scheme after already having served a three-game suspension this year for alleged recruiting violations, may not be the hot NFL candidate he once was. Per Rapoport and colleague Tom Pelissero, the NCAA has not ruled on the alleged recruiting violations or sign-stealing operation — the three-game ban was imposed by Michigan — and the NFL may force Harbaugh to serve any NCAA-ordered suspension should he return to the pros. Mark Maske of the Washington Post, meanwhile, says it is not certain that the league would go that route.

Still, in light of the failures of the two prior regimes, a Harbaugh hire could be a tough sell for Davis. In fact, Jones writes that Davis will be seeking a “player-centric” coach rather than a coach with the hard-nosed styles of Harbaugh, Gruden, and McDaniels. Jones also believes Davis will seek to hire a GM before hiring an HC.

In any event, Davis has promised a “comprehensive search” for a new head coach, and Vincent Bonsignore of the Las Vegas Review-Journal says Davis is being encouraged to hire a president of football operations to aid in the process. Ventrelle was replaced by Sandra Douglass Morgan in July 2022, and Jones writes that Morgan, along with longtime executive Tom Delaney and personnel man Ken Herock, will also offer counsel (though Pauline opines that most of Herock’s advice has led to “ruinous” decisions).

Jones echoes his recent report that Tom Brady will also influence Davis’ thinking. As expected, Brady’s would-be stake in the Raiders was not discussed at the league meetings last month, with Jones and Albert Breer of reporting that other owners take issue with the bargain price at which Davis is trying to sell a share of his club to Brady. Colts owner and finance committee member Jim Irsay told reporters, including Jori Epstein of Yahoo! Sports, “the number just had to be a reasonable number for purchase price.”

Breer adds that Brady’s broadcasting contract with FOX is also a hurdle to ratification of the purchase. Understandably, teams do not want anyone with an ownership stake in a rival outfit having the access and obtaining the inside information that broadcasters often enjoy, so much will need to change for Brady to be approved as a minority owner at the next league meetings in December.

Given Davis’ deep respect for Brady, it stands to reason that the all-time great will be an important voice in Davis’ ear regardless of his ownership status. And while much of the discussion about Las Vegas’ changing power structure has thus far focused upon who the next head coach will be, Pauline notes that there is a “groundswell” of support for interim general manager Champ Kelly to retain the GM post on a full-time basis. Kelly, a longtime Bears exec who has experience in both personnel and salary cap matters, has taken a number of GM interviews in recent years, and Davis recently admitted that Kelly might have gotten the Raiders’ GM job in 2022 if the package deal of McDaniels and Ziegler had not become available. Jones also names Colts assistant GM Ed Dodds as a candidate to monitor.

Despite Ziegler’s figurehead status in Nevada, Rapoport observes that McDaniels’ right-hand man nonetheless made strides in modernizing the personnel side of the Raiders’ operation, an effort that included hiring respected scouting minds, creating a scouting development program, and injecting “forward-thinking concepts on player development.” The next Raiders GM should therefore have something of a foundation to build upon.

Whether that person is Kelly or someone else remains to be seen, but in acknowledgment of their promotions, Davis reworked the contracts of both Kelly and Pierce, as Adam Schefter of reports. Those transactions added even more money to the whopping $85MM tab that Davis will have to pick up due to the McDaniels and Ziegler firings (though some of that amount will be offset should his former employees land new jobs elsewhere).

Davis is one of the league’s most cash-poor owners, so these hugely expensive maneuvers underscore the strength of his conviction that McDaniels and Ziegler were not the right men to lead the Raiders. As Adam Hill of the Las Vegas Review-Journal writes, Davis also fired team COO Mike Newquist, whom he hired just three months ago. Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk concedes that Newquist’s post is unrelated to the football side of the team, but he believes the immediate firing of a key employee will further add to the perception of dysfunction that presently surrounds Davis’ franchise.

One way or another, Raiders fans are in for a fascinating few months.

Frank Reich Addresses Panthers’ Bryce Young Selection, Lack Of Interest In C.J. Stroud

Sunday will see the top two picks from the 2023 draft play against each other for the first time at the NFL level. The Panthers-Texans contest has led to renewed interest in Carolina’s decision to take Bryce Young first overall, a decision which left Houston with C.J. Stroud.

The two quarterbacks have had much different levels of success in the early portions of their careers. Young has yet to reach 250 passing yards in a game while throwing four interceptions and taking 16 sacks in five games. Stroud, by contrast, broke the all-time record for most passes to start a career without an interception (191) and has helped led the Texans to a 3-3 start. Frank Reich, head coach of the 0-6 Panthers, recently spoke about his continued support for Young despite his slow start.

“We got the guy we wanted to get and couldn’t be happier about that — in every way,” he said, via Joe Person of The Athletic (subscription required). “I’m happy for C.J…. But I know this when it comes to evaluating quarterbacks or any position, it’s years not weeks.”

In the build-up to the draft, Reich’s history of working with bigger quarterbacks led many to believe he would endorse Stroud (6-3) over Young (5-10). The latter’s height did not appear to be an issue for Carolina by the time he was selected with the top pick, however, putting him in place to serve as the franchise’s presumed answer at the QB spot for years to come. He and the offense have sputtered to date, though, leading in part to Reich’s decision to hand over play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Thomas Brown.

In spite of that, Reich remains adamant that serious consideration was not given to Stroud in advance of the draft. While Anthony Richardson (taken fourth by the Colts) was mentioned in regard to the No. 1 slot, the Panthers’ decision was realistically between Young and Stroud. Despite frequently being linked to the Ohio State alum, though, Reich confirmed in this week’s remarks that Young, the 2021 Heisman winner, was the Panthers’ priority throughout the pre-draft process.

“My eyes and our eyes were on Bryce Young from start to finish,” Reich added. “You look at the film. You talk to the man. You get a sense for the leader, the player and what he is and what he can be and how he fits to what we want to do… we got the guy for us.”

Latest On Panthers’ Trade Deadline Plans, Bryce Young’s Struggles

Reports over the past week have suggested that the Panthers are seeking to add not just a wide receiver, but a top-flight wide receiver, which they believe will accelerate rookie quarterback Bryce Young‘s development. Dianna Russini of The Athletic (subscription required) echoed those reports today, writing that Carolina has placed calls to other teams and has inquired on wideouts and players at “other positions” (including, perhaps, safeties).

Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports offers something of a contradictory report and says that the team has no interest in trading “legitimate” draft capital. After all, the Panthers do not presently have a first-round pick in 2024 thanks to the offseason trade that netted them the first overall pick of the 2023 draft and allowed them to select Young, and they are not just one wideout away from being a championship contender. But even if a team were inclined to trade an elite receiver at the deadline — and such deals are usually consummated during the offseason — it would be difficult to imagine that happening unless Carolina parts with high-end draft picks.

Some sort of player package could theoretically allow GM Scott Fitterer to acquire a wideout without a major sacrifice of draft capital, though the only players that would likely intrigue a club looking to move a Pro Bowl-caliber receiver are foundational players that Fitterer would presumably want to keep. Russini does note that the Panthers have told other teams they are not looking to sell — i.e. trade players for picks — at the October 31 trade deadline, so as of right now, it could be that only minor transactions are on the horizon for Carolina.

The 0-5 outfit is the only winless club left in the league, but as ESPN’s David Newton writes, head coach Frank Reich is not panicking.

“It’s terrible we’re 0-4,” Reich said this week. “It’s terrible that we haven’t had more success on offense for [Young] to feel that a little bit more. But I really believe and know that’s coming. There will be stuff that we gain, that he gains, that going through this difficulty, the mental toughness and the grit, fighting through that will pay dividends later.”

To that end, the team is trying to simplify matters for Young, as Jones reports. Between Reich, offensive coordinator Thomas Brown, quarterbacks coach Josh McCown, and senior offensive assistant Jim Caldwell, there are a number of well-respected minds on the staff, but there may be too many voices in Young’s ear.

While Young’s intelligence and processing ability are attributes that convinced the Panthers to draft him, those same attributes may also be holding him back right now. He absorbs and tries to put into action all of the input he receieves from the staff, and according to Jones, that “information overload” has contributed to Young’s disappointing start to his pro career.

It makes sense that a simpler, more streamlined offense would be beneficial for any rookie passer, regardless of that player’s mental acuity. It is unclear what that means for Carolina’s short-term gameplans, but we may see it in action today, as the Panthers try to secure their first victory of the season.

Latest On Panthers’ WR Pursuit

We heard this weekend that the Panthers were in the market for some wide receiver help, but it sounds like they’re looking for more than a back-of-the-depth-chart option. According to NFL insider Jordan Schultz, the Panthers are actually seeking a “No. 1 caliber guy.”

[RELATED: Panthers Looking To Acquire Wide Receiver]

The Panthers signed Adam Thielen and DJ Chark and selected Mississippi’s Jonathan Mingo in the second round of this past year’s draft. So, considering the recent moves the Panthers made at the position, it was easy to assume the front office wouldn’t be looking to steal headlines with their next WR acquisition.

However, Schultz says that isn’t the case, as the Panthers are committed to adding a “top-tier” wide receiver. This is partly due to the team’s own evaluation through the first four weeks; per Schultz, the Panthers front office has determined that they haven’t surrounded Bryce Young with enough weapons. However, the organization is also “all in” on their rookie quarterback, and they’re eage to surround him with elite talent as soon as possible.

Many of the recent big-name receiver trades (Stefon Diggs, Davante Adams, A.J. Brown, Tyreek Hill) have been made during the offseason. It’s uncertain who the Panthers will be able to pry loose during the 2023 campaign, and they may be hard pressed to find a clear-cut WR1 on the trade market.

Troy Renck of Denver7 notes that the Broncos could be a match for a trade. The reporter tweets that both Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton were involved in trade talks this past offseason, and the duo stuck in Denver after the Broncos remained “firm on their demands.” Perhaps the Panthers would be more willing to meet Denver’s asking price, or perhaps the Broncos are willing to lower their demands.

Panthers QB Bryce Young To Return In Week 4

SEPTEMBER 29: Reich confirmed on Friday, via Newton, that Young will indeed be back in action this Sunday. His return will give him the chance to rebound from a pair of underwhelming performances to begin his career, and get the Panthers into the win column for the first time in 2023.

SEPTEMBER 27: Two of the three rookies given starting roles right away in 2023 – Bryce Young and Anthony Richardson – missed Week 3 due to injuries. Both appear to be on track to limit their absences to a single game.

Young was a full participant in practice on Wednesday, signaling he should be available for Sunday’s contest against the Vikings. His ankle injury required Andy Dalton to start last week, but such a move will not be necessary as long as the No. 1 pick’s recovery proceeds as scheduled. More work is still to be done on that front, of course, but today’s news is an encouraging sign.

“The big thing right now is to see how he responds [Thursday],” head coach Frank Reich said, via ESPN’s David Newton“Just have to make sure there’s no major setbacks, no flare-ups. But if he stays on track, then I think things are headed in the right direction.”

Originally given a one-to-two week recovery timeline, it comes as little surprise that Young has a strong chance to suit up after only missing one contest. Dalton threw for 361 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the Panthers’ loss to the Seahawks, a game which dropped them to 0-3. In doing so, the veteran showcased a continued ability to produce as a spot-starter, something he has done with four teams in as many years since his Bengals tenure ended. Dalton guided Carolina to a more notable performance in the passing game than the team’s two contests with Young under center.

The latter has repeatedly been tapped as the starter when available, though, so he will be in the lineup as soon as possible. To that point, Reich added that the Panthers are prepared to play Young at less than 100% – a noteworthy stance given the Alabama product’s long-term importance to the franchise. Young was the target of the team’s trade-up to the first overall selection, and as such he has been entrusted with providing much-needed stability at the QB spot. Risking further injury so early in his career would need to be weighed against the possibility of dropping to 0-4 on the season.

The same holds true of the Vikings, making Sunday’s matchup one of importance for both teams involved. Presuming all goes well in the coming days, each squad will have their No. 1 quarterback available on Sunday.

Panthers To Start Andy Dalton In Week 3

SEPTEMBER 22: Head coach Frank Reich confirmed on Friday that Young (who was again sidelined for practice) will indeed be incactive on Sunday, meaning Dalton will see his first action since joining the Panthers. Reich added, via Joe Person of The Athletic, that Young is facing a recovery timeline of one to two weeks. That could put him in line to return in Week 4, though the Panthers will no doubt proceed with plenty of caution before green-lighting him to take the field again.

SEPTEMBER 21: The ankle injury Bryce Young sustained is on track to keep him out of the Panthers’ Week 3 contest against the Seahawks. The No. 1 overall pick is expected to sit Sunday, Darin Gantt of writes. This puts Andy Dalton in line to start.

Young suffered the injury at some point during the first half of the Panthers’ Monday-night loss to the Saints. He has picked up two DNPs this week. While a return Friday would reopen the door to Young suiting up, the Panthers not rushing their prized investment makes more sense.

Carolina added Dalton in free agency, signing the veteran between the time it acquired the No. 1 overall pick and made the Young choice, and gave him the most guaranteed money among backup options this year. Dalton’s two-year, $10MM deal contains $8MM fully guaranteed. This contract dwarfs what Dalton made with the Saints — for whom he started 14 games — last season, highlighting the priority the Panthers gave to staffing their backup job.

One of the NFL’s most experienced players, Dalton has made 162 starts over the course of his 13-year career. Despite entering the 2020 and 2022 seasons in backup roles, Dalton logged 25 combined starts with the Cowboys and Saints. Dak Prescott sustained a season-ending ankle injury in 2020, while Jameis Winston initially exited New Orleans’ lineup due to injury but never received another chance to unseat Dalton after healing up. This is Dalton’s fifth team in five years, having made his way from Cincinnati to Dallas to Chicago to New Orleans to Charlotte.

Last season, Dalton averaged 7.6 yards per attempt — his highest mark since 2015 — and finished with his top passer rating since that ’15 Bengals slate as well. This came during a Saints season in which Michael Thomas played three games and Jarvis Landry battled injuries as well. Dalton, 35, threw 18 touchdown passes and nine interceptions during his Saints one-off. The team pivoted to a much bigger QB investment — Derek Carr — before the market opened in March. The Saints are not believed to have entered talks about re-signing Dalton, who played out a one-year, $3.5MM contract.

Young is off to a slow start, though given the makeup of Carolina’s offense, that should have been expected. The Panthers traded their No. 1 wide receiver (D.J. Moore) to obtain the top pick and played Week 2 without both starting guards. Brady Christensen is out for the season, and Austin Corbett resides on the Panthers’ reserve/PUP list. Through two games, Young’s QBR ranks 27th. The Panthers obviously are looking at their 5-foot-10 passer through a long-term lens, and it looks like he will some additional time to heal his ankle before resuming his first NFL season.

QB injuries have become commonplace for the Panthers, who have not seen their starter make it through a full season since Cam Newton did so in 2017. Newton’s shoulder and foot trouble led to his Charlotte exit. Sam Darnold battled injuries in both his Panthers seasons, and Baker Mayfield‘s low-quality showing featured an injury-driven interruption. Teddy Bridgewater did play 15 games in 2020, though Matt Rhule quickly backtracked on that contract and dealt him to the Broncos the following year.

Seahawks Sign Round 1 CB Devon Witherspoon, Wrap Draft Class Deals

This rookie class did produce a negotiation that led to a high-profile draftee missing part of training camp, but the Seahawks are ending that brief chapter Friday. No. 5 overall pick Devon Witherspoon agreed to terms with the team on his four-year rookie deal, Ian Rapoport of tweets.

With Witherspoon under contract on a deal worth $31.86MM fully guaranteed and containing a fifth-year option, all 2023 draftees are now signed. The payment schedule of the cornerback’s $20.2MM signing bonus served as the final hurdle for the sides to clear, Brady Henderson of tweets.

The three quarterbacks drafted ahead of Witherspoon — Bryce Young (No. 1), C.J. Stroud (No. 2) and Anthony Richardson (No. 4) — received 100% of their bonuses paid up front, per Henderson, who adds Will Anderson Jr. received 85% of his bonus upfront (Twitter link). Last year’s Seahawks first-rounder — No. 9 overall pick Charles Cross — received 75% of his signing bonus paid in the first six weeks, Henderson tweets, providing a glimpse into how the Seahawks prefer to structure their first-rounders’ deals.

With this minor issue in the rearview mirror, the Seahawks can get to work on deploying their top pick. The team deviated from a long-running strategy of not using high draft choices on corners. Under the Pete CarrollJohn Schneider regime, Seattle had not used a first- or second-round pick on this position. Other than Richard Sherman‘s 2014 extension, the team had also generally avoided big payments here as well. Despite Carroll believed to be on board with a high-risk Jalen Carter bet, the Seahawks chose the Illinois corner, whom the Lions were eyeing at No. 6.

A four-year contributor for the Fighting Illini, Witherspoon showed off his defensive ability in 2021 when he finished with nine pass breakups. He replicated that success with 14 PBUs (in addition to three interceptions and 41 tackles) this past year. The 5-foot-11 corner parlayed that success into becoming this year’s first corner chosen. The Seahawks, who moved into the Witherspoon draft slot via their 2022 Russell Wilson trade with the Broncos, will pair the rookie with 2022 rookie standout Tariq Woolen.

Here is Seattle’s 2023 draft class:

Round 1, No. 5 (from Broncos): Devon Witherspoon, CB (Illinois) (signed)
Round 1, No. 20: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR (Ohio State) (signed)
Round 2, No. 37 (from Broncos): Derick Hall, DE (Auburn) (signed)
Round 2, No. 52: Zach Charbonnet, RB (UCLA) (signed)
Round 4, No. 108 (from Broncos): Anthony Bradford, G (LSU) (signed)
Round 4, No. 123: Cameron Young, DT (Mississippi State) (signed)
Round 5, No. 151 (from Steelers): Mike Morris, DE (Michigan) (signed)
Round 5, No. 154: Olusegun Oluwatimi, C (Michigan) (signed)
Round 6, No. 198: Jerrick Reed II, S (New Mexico) (signed)
Round 7, No. 237: Kenny McIntosh, RB (Georgia) (signed)

Panthers Name Bryce Young Starting QB

Not that there was too much drama surrounding the Panthers’ plans at quarterback, but no Andy Dalton-led buildup period will occur involving the No. 1 overall pick.

Frank Reich confirmed Wednesday that Bryce Young is the team’s No. 1 QB. A 14-game Saints starter last season, Dalton can be viewed as one of the league’s top backups. The offseason Panther pickup said recently he still views himself as a starter-caliber QB. Barring something unforeseen, however, the 13th-year veteran will be backing up Young.

When we decided to pick Bryce we imagined and saw the vision that we’d be standing here today saying he’s QB1,” Reich said, via ESPN’s David Newton.

[RELATED: Panthers Sign Young To Rookie Contract]

Shortly after making a deal to acquire the No. 1 overall pick from the Bears, the Panthers signed Dalton to a two-year, $10MM deal. That contract included $8MM guaranteed, a considerable insurance payment weeks ahead of the Young investment. The Panthers had not completely settled on Young at that point, but the team had been leaning that way. The 5-foot-10 Alabama prospect became the pick, and although Dalton took first-team reps to start the team’s offseason program, the journeyman passer will begin his mentorship role.

This differs from the Bears’ plan in 2021. Chicago named Dalton its starter upon signing him that March, keeping Justin Fields on the sideline to begin his career. Dalton made six starts that year but rebounded to overtake Jameis Winston in New Orleans in 2022. He received a guarantee in line with the high-end QB2-type free agents this offseason, illustrating the Panthers’ hope to fortify a position that has been one of the league’s biggest trouble spots since Cam Newton‘s injuries accelerated a decline.

While C.J. Stroud should be expected to start early in his Texans tenure and Anthony Richardson should see extended time for the Colts this season, neither has been named a starter just yet. Young will lead the way on this front. Dominating as a two-year Crimson Tide starter, Young earned the natural scrutiny that comes with being a 5-10 passer. But the Panthers did not view Young’s frame as enough of a concern to take Stroud or Richardson first overall. The team dispensing with any QB competition talk, unlike the 2021 Jaguars with No. 1 pick Trevor Lawrence, illustrates the early confidence in Young.