Jimmy Garoppolo

49ers Rumors: Al-Shaair, Garoppolo, DBs

This will be a key year for Azeez Al-Shaair. The fourth-year linebacker is less than a year away from a possible free agency bid, and he may have an opportunity to join Fred Warner as a three-down ‘backer. With Dre Greenlaw missing much of last season due to injury, Al-Shaair stepped in as a full-timer. This season figures to determine which contract-year linebacker — Greenlaw or Al-Shaair — the 49ers aim to keep. The one that ends up playing less figures to be the cheaper option, with Matt Barrows of The Athletic noting that might be the player San Francisco attempts to retain (subscription required). Such a strategy would mesh better with Warner, who is tied to a top-market off-ball linebacker deal. A 2019 UDFA out of Florida Atlantic, Al-Shaair registered 102 tackles (nine for loss), two sacks, two fumble recoveries and an interception in 13 games last season — his first as a full-timer. Al-Shaair, however, is recovering from offseason knee and shoulder surgeries, Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area tweets. The team is targeting a training camp return for Al-Shaair.

Here is the latest out of San Francisco:

  • New 49ers quarterbacks coach Brian Griese has dealt exclusively with the quarterbacks who have attended the team’s offseason program. He has not communicated with Jimmy Garoppolo since taking over, via Maiocco (on Twitter). While Garoppolo will surely still have a good grip on Kyle Shanahan‘s offense, this does mark another sign the franchise remains intent on finding a trade. Dealing Garoppolo is not a guarantee, but it has long been the team’s goal.
  • Elijah Mitchell made a surprise ascent early last season, leapfrogging third-round pick Trey Sermon and finishing with 963 rushing yards in just 11 games. The 49ers added another third-round back this year, in LSU’s Tyrion Davis-Price, and have a new running backs coach in Anthony Lynn. The team still views Mitchell as its top backfield option, according to ESPN.com’s Nick Wagoner, who adds the incumbent plans to be roughly 15 pounds heavier than he was last season. The 2021 sixth-round pick, who missed a chunk of the season due to multiple injuries, played at around 200 pounds as a rookie.
  • K’Waun Williams operated as the 49ers’ slot cornerback for five years, signing multiple contracts to stay in that role. But the veteran defected to the Broncos in free agency this year. Veteran Darqueze Dennard could benefit. Despite being a January practice squad addition, Dennard resides as the top slot option for San Francisco as of OTAs, Barrows adds (subscription required). Fifth-round pick Samuel Womack may be Dennard’s top challenger, per Barrows. Although Dennard played in just two regular-season games last year (one as a Giant, one as a 49er), he spent several years as the Bengals’ primary slot defender. This will be the former first-rounder’s age-31 season.
  • Jaquiski Tartt is not expected back with the 49ers this year. As of OTAs, Talanoa Hufanga and Tarvarius Moore reside as the top options to replace him, Barrows notes. Hufanga received the first crack at the strong safety job this week, according to Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle. Moore’s contract tolled from 2021, a season he missed due to a torn Achilles suffered during the 49ers’ 2021 offseason program. The 49ers drafted Hufanga in last year’s fifth round; he started three games as a rookie. The team also signed ex-Colt safety George Odum this offseason.

Shanahan: ‘Not A Guarantee’ 49ers Trade Jimmy Garoppolo

Baker Mayfield‘s saga has generated considerable buzz, dwarfing Jimmy Garoppolo‘s time on the trade block for publicity. But the longtime 49ers starter is in the same boat, albeit with an unproven quarterback expected to replace him.

After entering the offseason with the plan of trading Garoppolo, the 49ers remain hopeful they can do so. But that is no longer a lock. After John Lynch alluded to the possibility Garoppolo plays out his contract with the 49ers, Kyle Shanahan did the same Tuesday.

I expect at sometime he’ll be traded, but it’s not a guarantee,” Shanahan said, via the San Jose Mercury News’ Cam Inman (on Twitter). “It went on hold when [surgery] happened.”

The 30-year-old quarterback underwent surgery on his throwing shoulder this offseason, putting him in a similar unavailability boat as Mayfield, who had surgery on his nonthrowing shoulder. Mayfield is expected to be ready by training camp. Garoppolo is expected to be ready for Week 1, but the surgery — which did not occur until March — changed the 49ers’ game plan here. They had entered trade talks previously, but Garoppolo’s operation scuttled those. San Francisco’s asking price — once believed to be a Day 2 pick — has almost certainly plummeted, with quarterback-needy teams moving to other options.

Lynch has said he believes Trey Lance is ready to take over, though CEO Jed York has also offered that the 49ers’ two quarterbacks can coexist for a second season. It would still surprise if Garoppolo was back on the 49ers next season. His $26.95MM cap number is holding up team business, which includes extensions for Nick Bosa and Deebo Samuel. Frequent scrutiny and injuries aside, Garoppolo has quarterbacked the 49ers to two NFC championship games. He could represent the best option to keep San Francisco a contender, depending on Lance’s Year 2 readiness.

That said, Lance coming from a Division I-FCS program that did not have a season in 2020 — due to the pandemic — and having one year of college starter experience opens the door for a longer NFL onramp. The North Dakota State prospect did not seriously threaten Garoppolo’s QB1 status as a rookie and could find himself in a position battle again come camp, if Garoppolo is indeed still a 49er.

Garoppolo’s camp would likely not be thrilled by the veteran being a very expensive Lance insurance policy, especially considering other teams could still upgrade via the ninth-year veteran. But the 49ers, like the Browns, appear to be threatening to take push complex QB situation into training camp — potentially in hopes of an injury or underperformance entices a team to make a viable trade offer.

The Panthers and Seahawks have been more closely connected to Mayfield, with Carolina entering trade talks for the disgruntled Cleveland QB during the draft. But a Garoppolo-to-Carolina scenario should not be ruled out. It is more difficult to see the 49ers trading Garoppolo to a division rival, though precedents exist — most notably in 2010’s Donovan McNabb Philadelphia-to-Washington swap. The Texans emerged on the radar here just before the draft, which featured no Houston QB picks. Nick Caserio was in New England throughout Garoppolo’s time there, but acquiring the contract-year QB now would impede Davis Mills‘ development.

NFC West Rumors: Samuel, Lynch, Cross, Mack, Rams

49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel helped push the narrative that his relationship with San Francisco was deteriorating in early April when he unfollowed the 49ers and removed all references to the team from his social media. Well, according to Michael David Smith of NBC Sports, Samuel has signaled that things may be trending in a better direction lately.

Smith points out that Samuel refollowed the 49ers on Instagram and liked a post that showed general manager John Lynch saying that the issues between the two parties can be worked out.

Samuel is headed into the final year of his rookie contract and is looking for a nice, new payday. Smith makes a good point that new deals to Davante Adams, Tyreek Hill, and Stefon Diggs are going to make a new deal for Samuel fairly costly for the 49ers.

Here are a few other rumors from around the NFC West, starting with another note from the Bay Area:

  • Jake Hutchinson, the 49ers beat writer for KNBR, released some quotes from an interview with Lynch. Lynch commented on the progress of the team’s efforts to trade quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, saying, “I felt we were close in some discussions, and then the decision was made to have surgery and it brought things to a screeching halt.” Lynch continued, “We either want to have Jimmy playing for us, which we’re alright with, or we want him to get the value.”
  • During a press conference with Seahawks general manager and executive vice president John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll after the Draft, ESPN’s Brady Henderson released a video containing some of their thoughts on the No. 9 overall pick, Mississippi State tackle Charles Cross. In it, the two specify that they see Cross on the blindside, playing left tackle. They don’t have concerns about him transitioning from Mike Leach‘s spread offense at Mississippi State due to Cross’s athleticism. They also felt very fortunate to have had Cross fall to them at 9, noting that there were opportunities to move up or down.
  • Matt Barrows of The Athletic wrote an article going over the results of the 49ers’ 2022 Draft. He notes that the two Day 3-additions of UTSA tackle Spencer Burford and Fordham tackle Nick Zakelj both played tackle in college, but project as NFL guards, similar to past draft picks Colton McKivitz and Jaylon Moore. While slightly problematic that none of these linemen specialize at guard or tackle, it’s extremely problematic that none of them have experience at center. With current center Alex Mack sitting at 36 and contemplating retirement, it’s important that San Francisco begins to look at options beyond Mack to play center.
  • In a rundown of the Rams’ 2022 Draft, Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic unveiled an interesting rumor about how highly Los Angeles valued their third-round draft pick, Wisconsin guard Logan Bruss. With plenty of time before their selection arrived, the Rams knew Bruss was the player they wanted to target at No. 104 overall. Upon the suggestion of now-retired left tackle Andrew Whitworth, who was in the Rams’ draft room, Los Angeles made a few efforts to move up to select Bruss earlier. Unfortunately for them, the teams they called declined. Fortunately for them, though, Bruss found his way to Southern California despite their inability to move up.

Panthers Still Open To Veteran QB Addition

Although the Panthers came away with a Day 2 quarterback in this draft (Matt Corral), third-round picks do not necessarily block teams from further investments at this position. The team will continue to look into the likes of Jimmy Garoppolo, Baker Mayfield and now Nick Foles, SI.com’s Albert Breer notes.

GM Scott Fitterer said post-draft the team would go with its current group — one headlined by Sam Darnold and Corral — but Garoppolo or Mayfield would provide an upgrade. The Panthers and Browns had discussed Mayfield ahead of last week’s second round but could not determine how to divvy up the since-replaced QB’s fifth-year option salary ($18.9MM). Darnold is already attached to that sum, which would make Carolina eating all of Mayfield’s option price a non-starter. As such, Mayfield is in limbo.

This marks the second Garoppolo connection to form in the past few days, with the Texans also believed to have the longtime 49ers starter on their radar. Houston did not draft a quarterback last week. Few Garoppolo connections emerged this offseason, with the 49ers’ high asking price limiting teams’ interest. The eight-year veteran’s shoulder surgery provided a roadblock as well.

Foles, 33, languished on the Bears’ bench for most of last season. The former Super Bowl MVP also lost his starting job in both 2019 (to Gardner Minshew in Jacksonville) and ’20 (to Mitchell Trubisky, after having taken it from the incumbent earlier that year). Last season, Andy Dalton and Justin Fields ran Chicago’s offense in all but one game — a Foles-directed win in Seattle — and the Bears finally cut bait after the draft.

Corral became a Panther after the team traded into the third round, giving up its 2023 third-rounder to do so, but the team might have had its eye on a different QB. The Panthers had a deal on the table to trade back into Round 2, when Corral, Malik Willis and Desmond Ridder were on the board amid their Friday-night freefalls.

I had the card in my hand, and [owner David Tepper] looks at me and says, ‘What do you want to do?’” Fitterer said, via Breer. “And we both just kind of took a moment, and we looked at the board, and we decided the right thing to do was to be patient. Let’s not overpay. Let’s be smart about this. Let’s not dig ourselves in a hole for next year. Let’s inch back on trading with these quarterbacks.”

The Falcons and Titans took Ridder and Willis, respectively, and Breer adds the Panthers would have been fine going with Sam Howell instead of Corral. They decided on the Ole Miss product, and the in-state product fell all the way to Washington atop Round 5.

Latest On Panthers’ QB Pursuit

4:46pm: The Panthers and Browns have continued their conversations on Mayfield, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com notes (video link). The expectation now is Cleveland needing to eat a chunk of Mayfield’s $18.9MM fifth-year option salary would stand to improve Mayfield’s price tag, but NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport adds the cost for the since-replaced QB is expected to be a Day 3 pick.

The Panthers are also a candidate to trade into Round 2 for a rookie, but that would be quite costly. Because of its trades for Sam Darnold and C.J. Henderson, Carolina does not pick again until No. 137. Carolina is, however, high on Willis and Corral. Both visited the Panthers earlier this month, joining fellow potential Carolina target Howell in doing so.

12:04pm: Day 1 of this year’s draft has come and gone, and Sam Darnold remains at the top of the Panthers’ quarterback depth chart. While that doesn’t come as a surprise, the team’s situation at the position could still change in the near future. 

[RELATED: Panthers Select Ekwonu At No. 6]

According to Jeff Howe of the Athletic, Carolina’s interest in veterans such as Baker Mayfield and Jimmy Garoppolo could heat back up. Given the fact that they made the expected move to bolster their offensive line by drafting Ikem Ekwonu sixth overall, he writes, the Panthers “now should be players for Mayfield.”

The two parties were linked in the build-up to the draft, with Carolina finding themselves as one of the runners-up to acquire Deshaun Watson. After initial reports indicated the team had little, if any, interest in Mayfield, the Panthers emerged in the eyes of many as the favorite to acquire him. Doing so, however, was only thought to be feasible after at least the draft’s opening round.

As Howe notes, any potential trade involving Mayfield is complicated by a number of factors. One is his contract; the 2018 No. 1 pick is due $18.86MM on the fifth-year option, just as Darnold is. For that reason, Howe writes, “the Browns are prepared to pay a portion of Mayfield’s salary to facilitate a deal.” Another is the team’s complete lack of Day 2 picks, taking them out of the running to draft the likes of Malik Willis, Desmond Ridder, Sam Howell or Matt Corral without sacrificing 2023 capital.

“I think we’ll look at every opportunity out there” said general manager Scott Fitterer, via Howe’s colleague Joe Person, regarding the QB market. “There’s still some really good players in this draft. And we’ll also look at every opportunity outside the organization.” Whether the team acts on those opportunities will be worth monitoring as the weekend progresses.

Texans Considering Round 2 QBs; Baker Mayfield, Jimmy Garoppolo On Radar?

Although Lovie Smith voiced support for Davis Mills early in the offseason, GM Nick Caserio was noncommittal about the second-year QB’s starter status going forward. Everything Houston has thus far done points to Mills receiving another opportunity, but the team may make a late entrance to the quarterback market.

The Texans considered the prospect of trading back into Round 1 for Malik Willis, Jeff Howe of The Athletic notes (subscription required). Houston, which also liked Kenny Pickett, holds the fifth pick in Friday’s second round (No. 37 overall). Willis’ fall opens the door to a potential investment for a Texans team that can certainly afford to give a rookie quarterback a redshirt season, given where the Caserio-led franchise is on its rebuild track.

This draft producing the first one-QB first round since 2013 opens the door to teams making lower-cost investments tonight. Ole Miss’ Matt Corral, who is on the Saints’ radar, and Desmond Ridder qualify as potential second-round picks. North Carolina’s Sam Howell may well go off the board tonight as well. The Buccaneers, Vikings, Titans and Giants pick in front of the Texans in Round 2. There are some QB landmine spots here for Houston, which runs the risk of missing out on its preferred second-day passer by standing pat.

Should the Texans not take a quarterback tonight, two veterans are available in trades. The team is likely to explore a Baker Mayfield or Jimmy Garoppolo addition, Howe adds. This would seem contingent on Houston not drafting Willis or another QB in Round 2. While the Texans are still fine with running Mills back out there in 2022 and did not consider drafting a passer with either of their first-round picks Thursday, per Howe, the team is not committed just yet.

The Panthers and Seahawks have been connected to Mayfield, with the former a bit more closely linked. Garoppolo’s market has yet to take shape, with the longtime 49ers starter still rehabbing from surgery on his throwing shoulder. The Texans were not interested in Mayfield when they traded Deshaun Watson to the Browns, but Howe adds the expectation of Cleveland needing to eat some of the QB’s fifth-year option salary ($18.9MM) has changed the equation. The 49ers’ asking price for Garoppolo remains too high for the Texans, however, though Caserio’s time with the ex-Tom Brady backup in New England does create a logical connection here — Garoppolo’s desire to end up with a contender notwithstanding.

Another wrinkle here is the 49ers’ willingness to keep Garoppolo through training camp. That could put the former Super Bowl starter in position to need another team’s QB injury to prompt a trade. Absent a reasonable offer, the 49ers are willing to carry Garoppolo’s salary ($26.9MM cap number) to camp, per Howe. This would hinder their ability to extend Deebo Samuel or Nick Bosa, but Garoppolo doubles as an insurance policy in case Trey Lance is not ready to take over.

49ers Notes: Lance, Tart, Mitchell, McGlinchey

In a wild offseason which has seen a number of sizable quarterback trades, one of the most significant storylines has to do with a move which hasn’t taken place. With almost (if not every) 2022 starting QB spot already spoken for, Jimmy Garoppolo remains on San Francisco, something which may not change for the foreseeable future. General manager John Lynch pushed back against reports that, even if he is retained, Garoppolo will cede the starting job to 2020 first-rounder Trey Lance.

All these reports, I don’t know where they all come from” Lynch said, via Jennifer Lee Chan of NBC Sports. “We always believe in competition, but at the same time we are great believers in what [Lance] brings to the table. We believe he is ready. He is going to have to show that. I think he’s ready to show that to us, show that to his teammates, and show that to the world.”

Garoppolo has been thought to be on the trading block since the 49ers traded up to select Lance third overall last year. It came as no surprise that the veteran openly discussed a future destination other than San Francisco after the season ended, but shoulder surgery has complicated his trade market, which was already weighed down by his $26.9MM cap number for 2022. Even if Garoppolo does stay with the team into the fall, Lynch’s remarks still point to Lance at least having the inside track for the No. 1 role.

Here are some other notes out of the Bay Area:

  • The team’s secondary has undergone plenty of change this offseason, and it appears at least one safety spot will look different come next year. Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Jaquiski Tartt “isn’t expected to return”. The 30-year-old has spent all seven of his NFL seasons with the 49ers, but the team has done homework on a number of secondary prospects, including Penn State’s Jaquan Brisker, Branch notes.
  • Running back Elijah Mitchell said yesterday that he underwent a minor procedure on his knee this offseason (Twitter link via Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury). A sixth-round pick last year, Mitchell enjoyed a productive rookie campaign, totalling 1,100 yards and six touchdowns. He added that he will “definitely” be ready for training camp.
  • The same will likely be true of right tackle Mike McGlinchey. The 27-year-old suffered a season-ending quadriceps tear in November. As Branch notes (on Twitter), however, the former top-10 pick expects to have recovered in time for the summer.

Panthers Waiting Until After Draft To Make QB Trade?

Much of the speculation surrounding this draft class pertains to its quarterbacks. The team to watch at that position has long been expected to be the Panthers, who hold the No. 6 pick and have been linked to the few remaining veteran options still available. 

If they do end up making a move for Baker Mayfield, though, it likely won’t be until after the draft is complete. As noted by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport (on Twitter), Carolina will let Day 1 on Thursday “play out first, before any other options are considered”. One of those options is acquiring Mayfield, a possibility which has grown in likelihood in recent days.

However, as Rapoport’s colleague James Palmer recently reported, things have “remained status quo” on the Mayfield trade front (Twitter link). The Panthers, like all other potentially interested teams, have yet to make an offer, per Palmer. That falls in line with other recent reports indicating the ex-Browns starter will have a much greater market next year as a free agent than he does now coming off of shoulder surgery.

With regards to Jimmy Garoppolo, the other veteran signal-caller widely expected to be on the move, Carolina will likewise wait until after this weekend to make any potential move. Cameron Wolfe reported (on Twitter) that the acquisition cost of both Garoppolo and Mayfield would have to “drop significantly” for a trade to become feasible. With that in mind, it comes as no surprise that Carolina drafting a quarterback remains a “real possibility” at this point.

By the end of Thursday night, the Panthers’ quarterback situation may be much clearer. If the team looks elsewhere with their top pick, or trades down, however, they will remain closely linked to the top upgrades at the position into the next phase of the offseason.

NFC Notes: Poles, Eagles, Garoppolo

It has been a slow offseason for the Bears with plenty of losses and misses, but new general manager Ryan Poles isn’t panicking. According to Courtney Cronin of ESPN, Poles is preaching patience to the franchise. Patience is something of which Chicago-fans have likely run plum out, but, with the current state of the Bears’ roster, it’s a wise path to take.

We’ve seen other rebuilding franchises take wild stabs through trades and free agency, making expensive, headline-grabbing moves that leave them little room to work with when addressing other roster holes. The Rams won a Super Bowl making flashy moves, but did so when those moves were the difference between winning or losing a Super Bowl. Teams like the Bears and Jaguars currently have too many holes on their roster for one offseason-worth of moves to elevate them to a Super Bowl-level.

Poles won’t let moving star pass-rusher Khalil Mack or losing defensive lineman Larry Ogunjobi to a failed physical or watching the Bills match the offer sheet on guard Ryan Bates force him into desperately grasping at whatever other players are available. He’ll continue to stick to his plan and his assessments. He’ll wait for an appropriate time, like the Draft or the post-June 1 period, to utilize the team’s accumulated cap space. Poles may just have the patience and demeanor to lead Chicago out of the NFC North basement.

Here are a few other notes from around the NFC, starting in the city of brotherly love:

  • The Athletic’s Sheil Kapadia enlisted the help of salary cap and contract expert Jason Fitzgerald, who operates OverTheCap.com, to help her analyze confusing offseason moves from each franchise. When they got to the Eagles, Fitzgerald had some interesting things to say. Fitzgerald asserted that Philadelphia is doing something no other NFL team is. The Eagles have been employing void years in contracts to push salary cap charges to future years. Essentially, if a player holds a $10MM cap charge, the team will eventually pay the $10MM cap charge. By using the void years, the team can take part of that $10MM and move it to later years. Say they take $5MM of that cap hit and move it to the following year. They’ll still be applying that $5MM to their cap space, but, after the league raises the salary cap (as they do every year), that $5MM will represent a smaller percentage of the total cap space in the following year than it would in the current year. The Eagles’ manipulation of the constantly inflating salary cap is nothing short of genius and soon other teams will likely catch on and follow their lead.
  • Earlier this month, Mike Sando of The Athletic went over some of the moves each franchise made this offseason. His take on the 49ers was centered on their handling of the future of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Garoppolo’s shoulder rehabilitation, combined with a 2022 base salary of $24.6MM, made it hard for San Francisco to move the former starting quarterback. According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Garoppolo and the 49ers mutually agreed to have him rehabilitate his shoulder off-site, away from the team, so, at this point, second-year quarterback Trey Lance has effectively taken over as the team’s first-string passer. Sando asserts that the best solution would be a compromise wherein Garoppolo would stay for the time-being on a guaranteed deal with some “dummy years” added onto it, either until San Francisco knows for a fact that they can move forward with Lance or until they know they can get a better value out of moving Garoppolo than they’re getting right now. This would provide the opportunity for the 49ers to reinsert Garoppolo back into the starting job they know he can handle if it turns out that Lance can’t.

Panthers’ Draft Plan

Carolina’s draft plans are becoming foggier and foggier each day as the Panthers are either really running through all of their options or else they are throwing up one heck of a smokescreen. Supporting a rumor we posted almost two weeks ago, Carolina will host NC State offensive lineman Ikem Ekwonu and Mississippi State offensive tackle Charles Cross this Tuesday for their 30 visits, according to Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated. 

Breer goes on to posit what many have deduced at this point from Carolina’s actions: if either of two of the Draft’s top offensive linemen fall to the Panthers’ first-round pick at sixth overall, Carolina would be expected to pounce at the opportunity to select them. This would fill a huge need at offensive tackle for the Panthers, but would leave another position need behind center unaddressed. The assumption is that, if the Panthers draft Ekwonu or Cross, they would address their need at quarterback by going after a veteran option like Baker Mayfield or Jimmy Garoppolo.

This take seems to be diametrically opposed to multiple other takes we’ve heard in the last four days alone. On Wednesday, we heard that Carolina was considering trading their No. 6 overall pick to grab a few additional draft picks. Yesterday, we reported on rumors that “the consensus of the people in this league” is that Carolina is going to draft one of two quarterbacks: Malik Willis out of Liberty or Kenny Pickett of Pittsburgh. Six hours later, we reported that the Panthers were reversing course on statements made in March about their lack of interest in Mayfield and, in fact, had the inside track to acquire the Browns’ quarterback.

That last report is the only one that lines up with Breer’s assertion from this morning. That could either point to some much anticipated clarification on the Panthers’ draft plans or it could be some expert mind-trickery by general manager Scott Fitterer and head coach Matt Rhule. Sandwiched between the Giants’ two top-seven picks (No. 5 & No. 7), the Panthers’ draft needs are not far off from those of New York. So these mind-games could be targeted specifically at one franchise. Those early reports that Carolina would draft Willis or Pickett could’ve been aimed to put pressure on New York to take a quarterback with their first pick, increasing the odds that an offensive lineman like Ekwonu or Cross falls to them at six. Similarly, the increased reports that the Panthers want Ekwonu or Cross and will sign a veteran quarterback may be aimed to take that pressure off of New York, lulling the Giants into selecting an offensive lineman and giving Carolina more options at quarterback in the first round.

It’s a lot to follow and mostly going in circles, I know, but Carolina can afford to focus this much attention on their No. 6 pick because, with no selections in the second or third round, their second pick of the draft comes at the end of the fourth round slotted as 137th overall. While the scouting brass may have plans to acquire extra picks, their current situation makes their decision surrounding the sixth pick their most important decision of the offseason.

I honestly don’t know whether to tell you to expect things to get clearer or muddier as we get closer to the 2022 NFL Draft. The idea that Carolina is purposefully driving the narrative could even be proved false and we may find out that they truly have no idea what they want to do. Stay locked in as I’m sure this isn’t the last we’ll hear out of Carolina in the next week and a half.