CHARLOTTE — A week ago, it was Jimmy Garoppolo.
This week, it's Kirk Cousins.
Wait until the league descends on Indianapolis next week for the Scouting Combine; the names that come up in connection to the Panthers could come daily, if not hourly.
The reality of the Panthers' situation at the moment is that every time there's a rumor or a report about a quarterback who may or may not be available, they're going to get linked to it. Sometimes, the connection might have some merit. Many times, it will not.
But when you do business the way they have in recent years, that's what's coming.
The Panthers have established themselves as in the market for a quarterback the last two years, inquiring about big fish, and making a strong offer for Matthew Stafford before he ultimately ended up with the Rams. Then they traded for Sam Darnold, and picked up his option for 2022, guaranteeing him $19 million this year.
The one thing we know is they're going to keep looking. They don't have a quarterback under contract for 2023, so that's what they should be doing.
There are valid arguments to be made as to whether they should take a big chance again this year to try to attract one of the top names. The other alternative would be to find someone to compete with Darnold, use free agency and the sixth pick in the draft to fix the offensive line, and create a better chance for success for any quarterback, this year or next. Again, reasonable minds can disagree, because to be a Super Bowl contender, you're going to need both the chicken and the egg.
They've also spent a lot of time evaluating the college quarterbacks (in fact, they were wrapping up eight straight days of pre-draft meetings Tuesday by discussing that position group).
If they're convinced one of the players in this class can be the quarterback they need, taking him in the first round makes all the fiscal sense in the world, since rookie deals are cheap compared to what it costs to have a veteran star on your roster (or even a mid-priced veteran).
"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," Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer said at the Senior Bowl earlier this month. "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 (Wilson) in the third round. That might be the ideal way to do it, but it's not always the easiest way."
To do that, you also have to be convinced that the particular quarterback is worth it, as opposed to taking a rookie just to have one. It remains to be seen as they evaluate this class whether they believe any of these guys can be that guy.
So between now and the draft, they're going to look under every rock. They're going to be connected to the entire quarry anyway, so they might as well.
While hypothetical trades make for great internet chatter and sports talk radio, there are elements of a lot of these deals which don't hold up to closer scrutiny, from a football standpoint or the financial ramifications.
But this is the place the Panthers are currently in. Which means for the next two months, there will be many more reports, connecting them to many more quarterbacks. All of them, probably.
Possibly, or eventually, one of them could end up being true.
View college photos of Jeremiah's initial list of top prospects for the 2022 NFL Draft.