The Carolina Panthers were impatient at quarterback, and in the moment their trade to get a franchise quarterback seemed reasonable. Expensive, but reasonable.
A few months later, the move to get Bryce Young looks like a franchise-changing trade, but not in the way the Panthers hoped.
The Panthers fell to 0-5 on Sunday. The bad news about that, other than not having a win, is that they also don’t have their 2024 first-round draft pick. That went to the Chicago Bears in the trade to get the first pick and Young. A lot of other assets went to the Bears in that trade, too. It’s a reminder that the massive trade up to get a quarterback often isn’t worth the price.
Young hasn’t looked great and that’s not a big problem yet. He could live up to all of the kind words said about him before the draft. What the Panthers gave up is the problem.
If you want a lesson in why impatience can be ruinous, just look at what the Panthers traded to get their quarterback right away rather than waiting a year. When the side-by-side comparison is done, it’s going to look ugly for Carolina.
The Panthers traded receiver DJ Moore, who went off for 230 yards and three touchdowns Thursday night for the Bears. They also gave up the ninth pick of the draft. That pick turned into defensive tackle Jalen Carter, who is the clear favorite for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year for the Eagles. Carter is the No. 1 defensive tackle in Pro Football Focus’ grades, a couple spots ahead of some guy named Aaron Donald. The Panthers also gave up that 2024 first-round pick that would be No. 1 overall if the season ended today, and almost assuredly is going to be generational QB prospect Caleb Williams (if he comes out of school).
No matter how highly you think of Young, nobody on the planet would take Young over Moore, Carter and Williams. Oh, and the Panthers also gave up a second-round pick this year and a second-round pick in 2025. That’s a disaster of a trade, all because the Panthers couldn’t wait to get off the quarterback carousel.
And, though it’s very early, Young doesn’t even look like the best quarterback in this rookie class. Or the second best. C.J. Stroud has been very good, and so has Anthony Richardson, when he’s healthy. Young has struggled. One of the game-turning plays Sunday was Young throwing a bad interception right to Lions defensive end Aidan Hutchinson in the first quarter. That led to a Lions touchdown and a 14-0 lead. Young threw three touchdown passes but also had another interception in a 42-24 loss. Young should be fine, but if we’re doing the 2023 NFL Draft over again today, it seems unlikely Young would be the first pick.
There’s an argument to be made that the Panthers’ trade will be fine if Young is an elite quarterback, and that’s valid. But is Young going to be clearly better than Williams? He’d have to be if that Panthers-turned-Bears pick ends up being Williams, to make up for all the assets Carolina gave up to get Young.
It’s not a franchise killer. The 49ers gave up the world to get Trey Lance, got nothing out of Lance and they’re still the best team in football. But the Panthers are the worst team in football and it’s hard to see their trade from March as being anything but a blunder.
Here are the power rankings after Week 5 of the NFL season:
Miles Sanders hasn’t put up more than 43 rushing yards in any game since the opener. On Sunday, he had 32 yards on seven carries, and Chuba Hubbard had nine carries. Sanders also lost a fumble. Sanders signed a four-year, $25.4 million deal with the Panthers and it’s not looking good.
It’s hard to rank anyone behind the Giants. Any of the bottom three could be the worst team in football. And it won’t get better if QB Daniel Jones has to miss any time. Head coach Brian Daboll’s challenge the rest of the season is making sure this doesn’t turn into a one- or two-win fiasco with the club looking like it has quit. It’s already the least competitive team in the NFL.
Denver has the 2023 NBA champions and the 2022 Stanley Cup champions, and just up the road is Deion Sanders and the most-watched college football team of this season. At some point, Broncos fans are going to ditch the habit of watching that team and tune into the more interesting teams in the area. The Broncos are terrible and irrelevant, and head coach Sean Payton’s act is not exactly endearing when he’s losing, and it’s all probably not getting better Thursday night at Kansas City.
Justin Fields is going to make things interesting for the Bears. He has 617 yards and eight touchdowns over the past two weeks. It’s hard to imagine the Bears would pass on Caleb Williams if they end up with the top overall draft pick, though Chicago has already experienced the boon from a trade down from the No. 1 pick. At least Fields is making it a conversation.
The Patriots have a minus-54 point differential over the past two weeks, which seems impossible for a Bill Belichick-coached team. It’s just all terrible for the Patriots right now. The conversation can already start about Belichick’s future. He’ll be 72 next season. Does he want to be a part of this long-term rebuild? Do the Patriots want to make a change, and if they do, how do you move on from a legend like Belichick without it being utterly messy?
The Cardinals aren’t the worst team in football, as was expected before the season. But they’re still 1-4. And now they don’t have an inside track to get the first overall draft pick. Still, rookie head coach Jonathan Gannon instilling a competitive culture, unlike some of the other 1-4 teams, has value moving forward.
With about eight minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Titans had fourth-and-1 from the Colts’ 5-yard line. That’s a conversion Derrick Henry has made many times in his career. This time, he was stuffed for no gain and the Colts went on to win. Henry’s yards per carry is a career low 3.8, a half-yard lower than any other average he has posted since 2017, and he’s losing snaps to rookie Tyjae Spears. Henry showed in Week 4 he’s still capable of big games but it seems like we’ve entered a different phase of his career.
It felt like Thursday night’s loss was the end of the Ron Rivera era, not in a literal sense but practically speaking. The Commanders looked unprepared and the 0-4 Bears wrecked them. New ownership didn’t hire Rivera and have no reason to keep him around if the season doesn’t get better. At the very least, it seems Rivera is coaching for his job the rest of the season.
Maxx Crosby is ridiculous. The Raiders’ defensive end was the best player on the field Monday night and the biggest difference in Las Vegas’ win. He had four tackles for loss, including a sack. He’ll be in the Defensive Player of the Year conversation all season.
The Vikings were the worst 13-win team ever last season, by plenty of measures. This season, they’re clearly the best 1-4 team. That’s not even an argument. But 1-4 is a bad place to be in the NFL, and it’s starting to feel like an unsatisfying end to the Kirk Cousins era, which has been unsatisfying before this season.
Breece Hall will have to play well with stacked boxes against defenses much, much better than the 2023 Broncos, but he looked great on Sunday. Hall had 177 yards and his 72-yard touchdown run was the turning point in a win. Hall at least gives the Jets a path to a somewhat competent offense.
The two wins shouldn’t have changed the expectations for the Texans. It’s still a slow build. The progress matters, win or lose, and C.J. Stroud throwing a go-ahead touchdown in the final two minutes is another sign that Houston has the right quarterback. Even in a last-second loss, that’s a positive.
The Packers’ opinion of Jordan Love seemed to be on full display Monday night. They did not want him passing the ball unless needed. Even without Aaron Jones, they were happy to keep giving the ball to A.J. Dillon and hoping that would be enough. Offensive line problems contributed to that gameplan, but it was telling when it comes to Love. And Love’s three-interception night won’t give them more faith.
It was good to see Cooper Kupp back and put up a 100-yard game. It wasn’t enough against the Eagles, one of the NFL’s best teams, but the Rams are going to beat plenty of teams the rest of the season. They’re way better than expected.
The Falcons’ schedule is really soft. The only teams they play the rest of the season that currently have a winning record are Tampa Bay (twice), New Orleans (twice) and Indianapolis. Atlanta can beat bad teams, we have seen that. It’s possible the Falcons could fall into 10 wins without beating anyone good.
What can you do with Anthony Richardson? He has played in four games and been knocked out of three of them with injuries suffered running the ball. A Week 2 concussion caused him to miss a game and a Week 5 shoulder injury will apparently cost him multiple weeks. He can’t reach his ceiling if the running game is taken from him, but the running game is putting him in harm’s way too often. When he returns, we’ll see how he adjusts how he plays, if at all.
Rookie cornerback Joey Porter Jr. had a game-changing interception in the end zone late in the fourth quarter on Sunday. According to Sam Monson of PFF, Porter has allowed a 0.0 passer rating into his coverage on 86 snaps this season. This is also when we point out that Porter was the pick from the Chase Claypool trade. Good job, Bears.
Sometimes the NFL can be easier than we make it. Having an offensive foundation of “Find Ja’Marr Chase and pass him the ball every down” isn’t that bad. Chase turned 19 targets into 15 catches, 192 yards and three touchdowns in a much-needed win. Expect a lot more of that going forward.
The noise from Sunday will be around the Patriots being terrible, but let’s credit the Saints, too. Their defense looked great, Derek Carr was efficient and they generally looked pretty good. You don’t win games 34-0 in the NFL just because your opponent is bad.
The Chargers’ next game, on Monday night against the Cowboys, is a big game for both teams. The Chargers probably would be better off if Dallas hadn’t been embarrassed on Sunday night, but nothing they can do about that. Cowboys at Chargers will be a fun game (probably attended by 90 percent Cowboys fans).
The Buccaneers host the Lions this weekend, then face a Falcons team that will be in the NFC South mix all season, and in Week 8 play at Buffalo. If you’re wondering if the Buccaneers are legit, you should have an answer in three weeks.
Deshaun Watson’s status for this week is still unclear due to his shoulder injury. It seemed clear in Cleveland’s last game that the Browns won’t win much if Watson is out. Even if Watson hasn’t been great, rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson isn’t ready. Watson’s injury status is huge for Cleveland this week.
If we eliminate the Texans loss from our minds, the Jaguars are in a good spot. They’re one game behind the best teams in the AFC standings. The rest of the AFC South is probably bad, especially with Anthony Richardson’s injury. The Jaguars still could end up running away with the division and being in the mix for the No. 1 seed.
Odell Beckham Jr. has seven catches for 79 yards in the three games he has played this season. The Ravens paid Beckham $15 million for this season and it looks like they got left holding an empty bag. And they could use him, too; the Ravens’ pass-catchers had way too many drops and mistakes in a winnable game against the Steelers.
Seattle’s next game is at Cincinnati, which is a fun NFC vs. AFC game. There will be elite receivers all over the place. If the Seahawks win that road test, they should start to get more respect. They’re probably not winning the NFC West because that’s going to the 49ers, but they’d be 4-1 with road wins over the Lions and Bengals. That would be a great start.
Here’s a hard truth: The Cowboys are very good, and probably going to win 11-12 games. They’re also probably not going to win the NFC East, not going to make a deep playoff run and are not a Super Bowl contender. Just like it has been the past couple years. The problem is you don’t blow up a double-digit win team and start over. I’m not sure what gets Dallas over the hump.
The Lions have entered the tier of teams that can be without offensive standouts like Amon-Ra St. Brown and Jahmyr Gibbs and it doesn’t matter. Also, we’re soon going to have to talk about Aidan Hutchinson as a Defensive Player of the Year candidate.
Not to pour cold water on anything, but the Dolphins’ two offensive explosions have come against the Broncos and Giants, two of the worst teams in the NFL. They’re fun, fast and very good, but I’m holding off on “Greatest Show on Turf” comparisons until they put up 500 yards on a good defense. Still, it’s a great start and Miami is must-watch TV.
The London trip is tricky, especially against a Jaguars team that is used to it and was there two straight weeks. I still think the Bills are a very good team. But Buffalo can’t blow games if it wants the No. 1 seed that would be so important for the Bills. And the losses of linebacker Matt Milano and defensive lineman DaQuan Jones to season-ending injuries is crushing. The defense struggled badly without them in Sunday’s loss to Jacksonville.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Skyy Moore led the Chiefs’ receivers in snaps. They combined for three catches and 23 yards. It still feels like the Chiefs need to figure out the right receiver rotation. Rashee Rice has shown signs of life. Justyn Ross has been up and down in his very few snaps, but maybe he deserves a longer look. Kansas City needs to figure out which receivers should be playing the most.
At some point we probably need to ease up on nitpicking the Eagles for a 5-0 start. They’re not blowing everyone out but they’re also one of two undefeated teams left. They’re 2-2-1 against the spread so they haven’t been terrible in playing up to expectations in that market. The Eagles might not be the 2007 Patriots, but you’d think they’re much worse than 5-0 given some of the rhetoric. They’re fine.
The most important story in the NFL this season might be Brock Purdy turning into an asset. He’s not just along for the ride. Watch Sunday’s game. His processing, anticipation and accuracy are very good, and those skills are probably more important than the ability to throw a ball 80 yards downfield. The 49ers are easily the best team in the NFL right now and Purdy is a big reason for that.