The Carolina Panthers sit as a pivot point of the 2022 NFL Draft.
Currently at No. 6 overall, general manager Scott Fitterer has multiple options at his disposal on Thursday night.
First, he could sit tight and hope one of the top offensive tackles falls his way, filling a massive need. Secondly, he could elect to shoot for the moon with a quarterback -- the club's latest attempt to solve a riddle that's had the Panthers in a bind since the first time they parted ways with Cam Newton. Or Fitterer could elect to trade down and accrue more picks, given that the Panthers' next choice after No. 6 isn't until No. 137 (Round 4).
In a draft lacking in star power -- especially at the QB position -- finding a trade partner wanting to leap up could be difficult, but Fitterer said Tuesday he's had conversations with a couple of clubs.
"There's probably a handful of teams, maybe three to four, that are really serious about it," he said of a trade. "We're just keeping all of our options open. It's definitely something we're going to look into. But if there's a good player there at [No.] 6, we're just gonna stay there and pick the players. ... Without having a second- or third-round pick, we're gonna keep all options open."
The Panthers have two major holes: quarterback and left tackle. Those are significant issues for any team hoping to contend.
While this draft lacks surefire QB talent, Fitterer insisted he wouldn't fret if that play made the most sense, given how the draft fell.
"If we had to pick one at [No.] 6, I would feel comfortable with one of them, actually a couple of them, at six," he said.
If we had to isn't exactly a vote of confidence for selecting a quarterback that high, but it's a position Fitterer knows he must keep throwing assets at until he solves the problem. Currently, Sam Darnold sits as the projected starter, with P.J. Walker the only other QB on the roster. Whether it's through the draft or adding another veteran (Baker Mayfield rumors persist), Fitterer plans to add another quarterback at some point.
"We want to stabilize the quarterback position," he said. "We need consistent play out of that. I sat down with Sam yesterday and we talked about everything. We need to help him out as well. We need to help him out with the offensive line. I think we've done a good job keeping (receiver) D.J. (Moore) here and with (running back Christian) McCaffrey and surrounding him with the talent where he doesn't feel like he has to make every play. But we do have to protect him. In our conversation, I said, 'Listen, we are going to add to this group through this weekend. There's a pretty good chance we could add to this group. It's open competition.' It's his spot right now, but whoever can take this spot and run with it, we're gonna do that. ... We're looking forward to adding to it."
Adding quarterbacks hasn't been the Panthers' problem. It's adding quarterbacks who can win games consistently that's been the issue.