After weeks spent wondering what it would take to pry the No. 1 pick from Chicago's grasp, Carolina delivered the answer Friday.
The Bears are trading the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft to the Panthers in exchange for a compensation package that includes two first-round picks and receiver D.J. Moore, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Friday.
The full package of assets sent to Chicago reads like a shopping list: the ninth-overall pick this year, a second-round selection in 2023 (No. 61 overall originally from the 49ers), a first-round pick in 2024, a second-round pick in 2025, and Moore, a receiver who just completed the first year of a three-year, $61.88 million contract with the Panthers.
All of this was to acquire a coveted draft selection to be used on a franchise quarterback of the future in Carolina.
The sheer volume of assets sent to Chicago for one draft pick means there's no other position Carolina will logically consider than quarterback, and after an NFL Scouting Combine in which two quarterbacks -- Florida's Anthony Richardson and Ohio State's C.J. Stroud -- dazzled scouts, it's no surprise the Panthers waited only a week since the two completed their workouts to get a deal done.
As for whom might be the twinkle in Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer's eye remains to be seen. Cases could be made for Richardson, Stroud and Alabama quarterback Bryce Young, and there is undoubtedly a small camp of Will Levis supporters who will pound the table for the Panthers to bring him to Charlotte. It's just the reality of draft season in this football-crazed world.
The trade stands as the first massive deal swung by Bears GM Ryan Poles, who landed the coveted top pick after Chicago narrowly finished with the worst record in the NFL in 2022. With Justin Fields already on the roster and coming off a season in which he gave Chicago its first evidence he could be the Bears' franchise quarterback, Chicago wasn't in the market for another young, unproven talent at the position, making a trade attractive.
After weeks of holding on to the pick, it took Poles less than a week after the combine to pull off a huge deal that provides the Bears with a war chest of draft picks (10 in total in 2023 now) that he can use to address the team's many areas of need elsewhere, and a much-needed weapon for Fields to target in the passing game with Moore. If ever there were a way to start a new league year with a ton of positive momentum, this is it for Poles and Chicago.
The leap from ninth to first cost Carolina more than a few gold doubloons on Friday, but as David Tepper has proven in his time in Charlotte, no expense is too great if it helps his Panthers. He essentially gave new coach Frank Reich a bottomless wallet when the time came to fill out his staff, and he's now signed off on a massive trade with the sole purpose of having first choice among this group of quarterbacks.
Tepper hasn't been around very long in Carolina, but 2022 produced enough headaches under center to sap him of patience regarding quarterback. Tepper sat and watched as his first coaching hire, Matt Rhule, bumbled his way through the first five weeks of the 2022 season before Tepper decided he'd seen enough, firing Rhule. The quarterback Fitterer acquired in the offseason -- former 2018 No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield -- flopped, too, sending the Panthers down a winding road to nowhere that included starting appearances from PJ Walker and Sam Darnold, and even a Jacob Eason cameo.
By the time Tepper and Fitterer reached the offseason, the priority became clear: Find a concrete answer at quarterback in 2023, even if he needs time to work through growing pains.
A portion of Panthers fans might be wondering why Carolina made this move when it spent a third-round pick on Mississippi quarterback Matt Corral in last year's draft. In order to understand this decision, those same Panthers fans should take a trip down memory lane to 2011, when Carolina ignored the fact it had spent a second-round pick on Jimmy Clausen in the 2010 draft and used the No. 1 overall pick on Cam Newton in the ensuing draft.
Sometimes, when an obvious upgrade is available at quarterback, past moves don't matter. Corral could return from his season-ending knee injury to play a minor role on this team, but make no mistake: As it was with Newton in 2011, this will be the next No. 1 pick's team.
Tepper has the financial might to make things happen quickly, and Fitterer answered the call by swinging a deal that appears incredibly lopsided in terms of assets. The No. 1 pick cost Carolina its leading receiver in 2022, the ninth-overall pick and a host of other valuable picks that will be spent on Day 1 and 2 of this and future drafts.
But if Carolina's chosen messiah, a franchise savior projected to lift the Panthers from the doldrums of mediocrity, pans out, it will all be worth it.