The Panthers brass is pushing its chips to the middle of the table as it relates to the 2021 team. After a 3-0 start, it's clear that Matt Rhule and company are confident in the future of their team, one of three remaining who are undefeated. Carolina's focus on the present was evident on Monday, when the team was finalizing a trade that sent tight end Dan Arnold and a third-round pick to the Jaguars in exchange for cornerback C.J. Henderson and a fifth-round pick. The move is a direct response to Carolina rookie cornerback Jaycee Horn's recent foot injury that is expected to sideline him for a significant period of time.
The Panthers are getting a promising cornerback who is three days shy of his 23rd birthday. The ninth overall pick in the 2020 draft, Henderson recorded an interception off of Phillip Rivers in his NFL debut. He had several other promising moments as a rookie before a groin injury prematurely ended his season. Henderson started in Jacksonville's first two games of the 2021 season. Illness as well as a groin injury sidelined Henderson for the Jaguars' Week 3 loss against the Cardinals.
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Let's take a look at how the trade will impact both teams. We'll also hand out our grades, as NFL teams continue to wheel and deal with Week 4 just around the corner.
Give the Panthers credit for moving quickly to address their cornerback position after losing Horn. Carolina wants to keep the train rolling after a 3-0 start, and the trade for Henderson shows how serious the Panthers are about winning this season. The trade also shows that the Panthers wanted to bring in another young cornerback to replace Horn instead of signing an older veteran like Richard Sherman. Henderson struggled with injuries in Jacksonville, but if he can stay healthy, he could become an impact player in the Panthers' secondary. Henderson was, after all, the second cornerback selected in the 2020 draft.
As is the case with every trade, the Panthers did have to give something up in order to get Henderson. As it currently stands, Carolina does not have second or third-round picks in the 2022 draft. But the Panthers may receive a compensatory draft pick depending on who they lose in free agency this upcoming offseason. Carolina also had to part with Arnold, who caught seven passes (three for first downs) during his first three games of the 2021 season. But all things considered, it was a very good trade for a Panthers team that wants to make the most of their current situation.
It's always a gamble when a team parts ways with a young player who was a high draft pick. But given Henderson's injury issues, Urban Meyer apparently decided that a change would be best for both parties involved. It's also clear that Meyer has confidence in rookie second-round pick Tyson Campbell, who replaced Henderson in the starting lineup on Sunday. The Jaguars also were able to acquire a solid tight end in Arnold, who can serve as an intermediate target for rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence. This could be a significant addition for Lawrence, who hasn't had much success with the tight ends currently on Jacksonville's roster.
Jacksonville now has two third-round picks and remain at 10 overall picks in the 2022 draft. The Jaguars still have a fifth-round pick, as they entered the day with two fifth-round picks after receiving one in a previous trade involving defensive end Yannick Ngakoue. Like the Miami Dolphins a few years earlier, the Jaguars are looking to parlay a bounty of draft picks into a relatively quick turnaround. And in the process, the Jaguars acquired a player in Arnold who can help them in the interim.