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Carolina Panthers

Panthers checking out quarterback road show

Quarterback Kenny Pickett (8) goes through passing drills during Pittsburgh's football pro day, Monday, March 21, 2022, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Quarterback Kenny Pickett (8) goes through passing drills during Pittsburgh's football pro day, Monday, March 21, 2022, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

CHARLOTTE — It's a little less busy in Bank of America Stadium Monday, particularly on the hall where the Panthers personnel staff and coaches work.

That's because most of them are on the road this week, as they begin the next phase of looking for a long-term answer at quarterback.

The Panthers had a large contingent at Pittsburgh's pro day Monday to watch Kenny Pickett, and that will be the case throughout the week.

Tuesday, Malik Willis will be working out at Liberty's pro day, and Matt Corral will be holding his pro day at Ole Miss on Wednesday.

That gives decision-makers a quick look at the top three prospects at the position in a short amount of time.

The Panthers had head coach Matt Rhule and general manager Scott Fitterer at Pittsburgh Monday, along with assistant general manager Dan Morgan, vice president of player personnel Pat Stewart, college scouting director Cole Spencer, and area scout Eli Montague. They were joined by offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo and quarterbacks coach Sean Ryan.

Getting an up-close look at these prospects is critical for the Panthers, since the sixth overall pick would likely get them their choice of the passers in this year's draft — if that's the route they choose to take.

Monday's trade that sent quarterback Matt Ryan from Atlanta to Indianapolis also adds a layer to the drama of the next month. The Falcons subsequently added Marcus Mariota to replace him, which likely sets the stage for another young quarterback on the way in.

While the first five teams in this year's draft order aren't necessarily expected to take a quarterback, the Giants (picking fifth and seventh) are willing to deal. The Panthers, Falcons (eighth overall), Seahawks (ninth), and Commanders (11th) are all in varying degrees of need of another quarterback.

That means the market for trades could be active, which means you have to evaluate all the options carefully.

The scouting staff met with Pickett and Willis at the Senior Bowl in January, and the team had formal interviews with all the top quarterback prospects at the Scouting Combine as well. Corral wasn't at the Senior Bowl.

The Panthers have been aggressive in the first week of free agency, but haven't made a move at quarterback yet.

Considering the economics of the position, drafting one makes sense, as it allows the team to put more parts around a young player. Fitterer knows that from his days with the Seahawks, when Russell Wilson won a Super Bowl while on his rookie deal, thanks to a veteran-laden defense.

"That's huge. I mean, ideally that would be the way you want to go, to have a young quarterback on a rookie contract with a veteran team around him," Fitterer said. "Once you get up to paying a guy $30 million or $35 million a year, that limits what you can do, and you're taking from other areas of your team.

"Any time you have a rookie quarterback it really helps financially. What we did in Seattle, we had a veteran team and we were able to drop a rookie quarterback on a rookie quarterbacks' contract onto that team. We were still able to have a lot of veteran, talented players on bigger contracts around him. Economically, it's a smart way to do it, but it's not always the easiest way to do it, because you have to find that guy, identify him, and a lot of time you're picking high in the draft if you're able to do that. We were fortunate in Seattle to get Russell in the third round. That might be the ideal way to do it, but it's not always the easiest way."

Deciding if any of the guys they're looking at this week are the right guy is the next job for the Panthers.

And they've got plenty of people helping to make that decision.

View photos of quarterback prospect Kenny Pickett as he works out at the Pitt pro day on Monday.

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