The Carolina Panthers took the first offensive lineman in the 2022 NFL Draft, selecting Ikem Ekwonu out of NC State with the No. 6 overall pick. Carolina absolutely needed to find a left tackle like Ekwonu, but the quarterback position is still a question mark.
While Sam Darnold is under contract for 2022, the Panthers were long regarded as the team with the best chance to take the first quarterback off the board. However, just one signal-caller went in the first round: Kenny Pickett to the Pittsburgh Steelers at No. 20 overall. The second round is expected to be more quarterback heavy, and while the Panthers don't hold a second-round pick, they may be eyeing a trade up.
Per NFL Media, the Panthers could attempt to find a trade partner in the second round to take one of the signal-callers they may have had a first-round grade on. Ian Rapoport specifically mentioned Malik Willis out of Liberty, Matt Corral out of Ole Miss and UNC's Sam Howell as prospects Carolina likes. However, the Panthers surely are not the only team considering a trade up the board for a quarterback.
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Interestingly enough, the Panthers are not 100% set on leaving the draft with a quarterback. According to NFL Media's Tom Pelissero, Carolina and the Cleveland Browns have continued to have conversations centered around quarterback Baker Mayfield. He's been waiting for a trade for over a month, as the Browns won the Deshaun Watson sweepstakes earlier this offseason. They could end up acquiring the former No. 1 overall pick by the end of the weekend, ESPN's Kimberley A. Martin reported, but they remain split on Mayfield's value as a potential upgrade on Darnold, per CBS Sports NFL insider Jonathan Jones.
Mayfield is due $18.85 million in 2022, and the Browns have probably realized by now that they will have to eat most of that money. Then, there's the compensation question. What would the Panthers give up for Mayfield, and what would the Browns want? Either way, the Panthers are still interested in quarterbacks.