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Carolina Panthers

Ask The Old Guy: So many quarterback questions

Kenny Pickett, Malik Willis, Matt Corral

CHARLOTTE — As you may have noticed lately, the Panthers have done a lot of stuff.

But until they do that one thing, the questions are going to revolve around a particular theme.

For all the offensive linemen (plural), linebackers (plural), safeties, corners, defensive linemen, running backs, wide receivers, and even punters they've signed, the Panthers still haven't added a quarterback to the mix.

So that's the current object of fascination with this fanbase. There were many, many questions about quarterback options, and the short answer to all of them is, "Sure, maybe, depends." That goes for the few remaining veteran options, as well as the three potential draft picks they spent this week checking out.

We'll go through them in as much detail as possible, now that they've filled in a lot of other blanks. But y'all had quarterback questions this week. A lot of them.


I am a bit concerned the quest for a QB1 will eventually result in Panthers mortgaging the future to save the present. I know Deshaun Watson is a talented player, but he was just average in wins as a starter, going 28-25 in his career, about 52 percent. That is on par with the likes of Carson Wentz, but less than Nick Foles (56 percent) and Jimmy Garoppolo (71 percent). The point being, I don't believe paying "up" for just an average winner will be worth it in the long run. Are the Panthers missing the forest through the trees in their fanatical pursuit of a QB1? — Michael, Waxhaw, NC

Wins and losses aren't necessarily a quarterback stat (because a team result depends on so many other factors), but Michael raises a fascinating philosophical point. How much is too much to spend on a quarterback? When do you cross the line from doing whatever it takes to get a franchise quarterback, to not investing enough in the rest of the team around him?

I'm of the belief that you want to build a whole team, which means you have to pay good offensive linemen, and skill position guys, and defensive players as well. I've also decided that if I ever got a chance to run a team (God forbid), I'd never give a quarterback a second contract, because that takes away your ability to fund the rest of the project. If you draft a quarterback in the first round, you have contractual control of him for seven years (including the option and a couple of franchise tags). That's enough time to decide if he's capable of winning you a Super Bowl. If he isn't, trade him and start the process over with another first-rounder. People would argue, "What if you draft Patrick Mahomes?" I would counter with, "What if you draft Matt Stafford or Matt Ryan or Philip Rivers?" The Lions and Falcons and Chargers spent a lot of money on them for a lot of years, and it never got them a title. Also, could you imagine what the Chiefs could get for Mahomes if they put him on the market? All the picks. Perpetual Moneyball. You have a better chance of winning the lottery if you have all the tickets.

That's why that 71-percenter you mentioned is intriguing, honestly.

An average quarterback surrounded by good stuff can appear to be above-average. But he remains average. You have to remember that when considering his value. Average at a certain price-point is a good thing. Average at inflated rates (of salary or compensation required to obtain) is not necessarily helpful.

Cam Newton


What do you think about the Panthers re-signing Cam Newton, and drafting Malik Willis so he can learn from him? — Joseph, Manteca, CA

It's an easy connection to make, since they have so much in common (Willis played 7-on-7 for Newton, went to his high school alma mater, and also spent a couple of years at Auburn).

And I absolutely understand the temptation to bring back the franchise legend. He was amazing here for more than seven years, until he wasn't. Then he came back. No one who was at the Arizona game will ever forget it, or the Washington game the following week.

The problem is the four games after that weren't very good (passer rating of 44.5). Granted, the offensive situation as a whole wasn't ideal, so it's hard to know how many quarterbacks would have been successful. The fact Newton admitted at the end of the season he'd be willing to go somewhere as a backup seemed telling. He's also been free for anyone to sign for a week, and there has been no reported interest. Whether there's unreported interest, only he knows that.

But the idea of pairing him with a young quarterback who will eventually take over? Tell me more.

No one who watched Willis drop a 65-yard, off-platform throw to a precise spot and then race downfield to jump in the air and hip-bump his receiver on Tuesday didn't have a little tinge of nostalgia for Young Cam Newton. (Willis also has some of that charisma, though no one in the world has as much charisma as Cam Newton.)

Could Cam buy you enough time to develop a talented rookie? It's an interesting theory, though it's reasonable to wonder if it would work in the real world.

I don't know that it's anything the Panthers front office is actively considering. This is just me looking at a dwindling array of options, and wondering if it could work.

So I guess the short answer, in my opinion, would be: "Sure, maybe, depends."


The Panthers passed on the athletic big-armed QB last year in Justin Fields. Do you think they would have a similar avoidance to Malik Willis? Second question, is Bill Voth OK? I miss him. — Carter, Charlotte

One of the dangers this time of year is that we treat rookie quarterbacks as a homogenous class of people, as opposed to individual human beings with unique traits.

The Fields evaluation was based on Fields. The Willis evaluation should be based on Willis. I don't think they're against adding any particular type of quarterback.

And as they watched Willis this week at his pro day, they saw again what is evident on tape. He has a huge arm, giving him the ability to make big plays downfield. He's not the most accurate passer in this draft, and perhaps not the one most ready to play immediately, but he is very talented.

Put him in the right situation, and I think he could flourish. I don't think you can rule him out here. Or Kenny Pickett. Or Matt Corral, who they watched Wednesday.

The Panthers aren't in a spot to not consider any avenue to acquiring a quarterback at the moment. And each of the methods of acquiring one has plusses and minuses.

OK is a great way to describe Bill. He is fine, I suppose. I've had worse bosses. He's constantly talking about his prestigious alma mater, and he's been fighting a cold, but on the whole, he's well and planning cool stuff for the future for the department. He misses you, too. We've been trying to talk him into bringing back Cart Talk, and man, are there some new guys around here who would make amazing content. Stay tuned.


Dirty Myrtle or OBX? — Cory, Big Stone Gap, VA

You know, this is the kind of question I'd love to explore. In depth. For a week. Like, now. It's been a long March.

It was easier to feel normal during the offseason before the league pushed the regular season back, so the Super Bowl fell right into the lap of the Combine, which fell right into the lap of free agency. At some point after the draft, I'm going to collapse for a week.

Ashamed to say I've never been to the Outer Banks. Feels like if I'm going to spend that long in a car, I should end up in a different state.

It also feels like I'm at once too old and also not quite old enough to go back to Myrtle Beach. I don't wear ugly hats and play golf, I don't shop, and I'm no longer at the stage of life in which spring break is a thing (though once when I was in college, I met a fellow student from West Virginia who had six toes. It's a long story).

I will eagerly accept vacation recommendations. I hope I eventually get to use some of them.


Why are we not talking about Desmond Ridder? He was a four year starter that got better every year. Why wouldn't we consider the more experienced QB? — Stoney, Gastonia, NC

Did I mention there were a lot of quarterback questions this week?

There are people who think Ridder's an interesting prospect, as his record in college would suggest. If you win 44 games at Cincinnati, you're doing something right.

(In a related note, my beloved Cincinnati Reds appear to be well on their way to a 44-win season.)

Ridder doesn't have the same kind of top-end tools as the three quarterbacks generally ranked ahead of him (Pickett, Willis, and Corral), so he may be topped out already. But it's not as if he doesn't have talent.

The problem with the Panthers potentially being interested in him is availability. He's certainly not a guy you pick sixth overall. He'll likely be gone before they pick next at 137.


My dream scenario is we're able to trade back 4-8 spots and select Trevor Penning while recouping a second and/or third-round pick. I wouldn't mind taking a flyer on a second-round QB (Corral/Ridder/Carson Strong), then selecting an OG/C, DT, LB or WR. In free agency we can get a safety and guard. Lastly, I hope we sign the San Diego State punter, dude could be a weapon for a struggling offense! Are any of these ideas possible? — Matt, Shreveport, LA

So many ideas! In order, I think the trade-back, take Penning, and add assets plan is sound. The Northern Iowa tackle has risen in public perception, and could easily go in the top 10. He's athletic, and also mean as a snake, which is a combination you love in an offensive lineman.

Matt was prescient regarding the additions of safeties and guards in free agency, although I think they headed off the need for Aztecs punter Matt Araiza by signing Johnny Hekker. Now, that guy's a weapon. An All-Decade punter, who can throw it a little bit too.

Go behind the scenes with Hekker as he signed with Carolina on Monday.


As the blooms emerge and the bees buzz about, spring has sprung and hope begins to grow in the heart of a jaded Panthers fan. Perhaps the offensive line can solidify. Maybe Christian McCaffrey can play football without injury. Perhaps Sam Darnold can rise above it. DEFENSE...DefEnsE...defense!!! Ah...the possibilities...6th agency...OH MY GOODNESS... Another ride on this rollercoaster with high highs and bottomless lows. Mr. Gantt, help, . . . PLEASE HELP...As it unfolds, guide us, inform us, entertain us, and disregard the towel being thrown in, ...HOPE BAY BEE!!! — Westray, Kershaw, SC

I recognized this one immediately. Westray's one of our OGs around here, and late last year, declared himself done with it all.

I didn't believe him for a second.


Does re-signing Donte Jackson indicate anything on how the coaches view CJ Henderson's progress with the team? Is it possible Jackson plays more slot corner if Henderson becomes a more reliable outside option? Thanks, Darin. Keep pounding on spreading the good word — #onabiscuitinsteadofabun — Alex, Raleigh, NC

Good question, and not just about my love of the Bojangler in its most evolved form. Order your fish sandwich on a biscuit, with a little tartar and some hot sauce for maximum deliciousness. I could go on and on about it. I have.

I think bringing Jackson back has mostly to do with Jackson. Henderson showed some glimpses last year, mostly on the outside.

How they deploy multiple-corner sets will be interesting.

Myles Hartsfield played nickel last year, but it wouldn't surprise me if they'd consider Jaycee Horn over a slot with Jackson and Henderson outside. Nickel is more complicated than it seems (it's not just a third guy), and Horn can do a lot of stuff.

And because he knows what's up with the Bojangler, Alex is this week's Ask The Old Guy Friend Of The Mailbag, and will receive the appropriate honorarium as soon as I get my hands on it.


I was a Friend Of The Mailbag, but I never got any promised reward. Did you forget me?

As for a memorable non-playoff game, how about Jake Delhomme coming into the second half of the Jacksonville opener in 2003 and throwing the game-winning touchdown to Ricky Proehl with 0:17 left. I still cry with joy every time they show that highlight on the message board. It propelled the team to its first ever Super Bowl. — Omer, Wilkesboro, NC

Apologies to Omer and all the recent FsOTM. It has taken longer to get the second shipment than I anticipated. I'll try to find something nice for you to make it worth your while.

And who can forget that 2003 opener? Rodney Peete started that season because inertia (after he did a creditable job in 2002), but Delhomme was going to take over soon. None of us anticipated it being that soon, or that dramatically.


Dear Darin, are you taking power naps to get through the free agency burst or are you more of a four-hour sleep a day kind of person? I think signing Donte Jackson to lead that room was a wise and inspiring move. The group is looking formidable to me. How do you see their immediate impact and their potential to be really good or even great? — Randall, Old Fort, NC

There's a reason they didn't give me an office with a couch. Sleep is at a premium this time of year, so you stack it whenever you can. On a plane before takeoff. At red lights. Curled up in a ball under the desk.

This secondary has the potential to be quite good.

Horn was on his way to being a top player before his early injury. Jackson's a proven vet, who was playing some of his best football. Adding Xavier Woods to play free safety alongside Jeremy Chinn provides a nice contrast of styles. (Also, we are not talking enough about Woods. Sometimes I think people hear "solid" and think it's a slur. It's not. Having competent, experienced play is important. He played all 1,208 snaps of defense for the Vikings last year, and another 115 snaps of special teams. He had three picks and two forced fumbles. This was a good addition.)

How Henderson and Keith Taylor Jr. develop will be key to the secondary as a whole, as they need multiple corners to play the kind of defense they want.

The Panthers might not have the same kind of pass-rush they did last year (without Haason Reddick opposite Brian Burns), so the burden on those guys will be greater.

View photos of Xavier Woods on set with the Panthers as he officially signs on Thursday.


Let's go lightning round to close it down this week:

Are the Panthers done with free agent signings? — Sreenivas, Apex, NC

Not necessarily.

Are Kenny Pickett's hands big enough to hold a Big Bo Box from Bojangles? That's all we should care about. — Travis, Gastonia, NC

Absolutely. Or two Bojanglers #onabiscuitinsteadofabun. People make jokes, but it's obvious the kid can play.

Did the Panthers send anyone to Carson Strong's pro day? — Chris, Thomasville, NC

Yes. It wasn't the full Bob Hope-and-Bing Crosby road trip treatment that Pickett and Willis and Corral got, but they were there.

Your thoughts on Darnold, if he has time in the pocket, to avoid "happy feet?" — Larry, Cornelius, NC

The line is certainly better now than the last time he was behind it. Also, I read once that the key to a great comedy act is to bring the joke back around to the top to close the show. So, . . . "Sure, maybe, depends."

You've been a great audience. Try the veal. Don't forget to tip your waiters and waitresses.

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