Could the Panthers trade up in the NFL Draft for Justin Fields?

Justin Fields, Panthers, NFL Draft
NFL Analysis Network

If the Carolina Panthers succeed in their plans, they will have a new quarterback under center in 2021. After signing Teddy Bridgewater last offseason to a three-year, $63 million deal, the team is ready to move on. Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields could be a main target in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Carolina cited Bridgewater’s physical limitations as a reason for wanting to make a change at the quarterback spot. It is no secret that the Panthers are in pursuit of Houston Texans star Deshaun Watson.

The Texans have yet to formally say they are shopping Watson, but the writing is on the wall. He wants out and if they play hardball with him, things could get uglier than they already are. At this point in time, it seems to be more of when, not if, Watson is moved.

Carolina isn’t the only franchise that is in pursuit of Watson. Outside of a handful of teams, Watson would represent an upgrade at the quarterback position. However, it is the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins, in addition to the Panthers, who have reportedly been confirmed by sources as teams Watson would accept a trade to.

While the Panthers hold out hope they can land Watson, if they are outbid, they need to have a contingency plan in place. Those plans may include one of the top quarterback prospects in the 2021 NFL Draft class.

In a recent CBS Sports Mock Draft, the Panthers are mocked to trade with the Atlanta Falcons, moving up to select Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields. If Carolina likes one of the prospects enough in this year’s draft class, trading up seems to be the only feasible way to land one of them.

The Panthers own the No. 8 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, which is the starting point in any negotiations they have, whether it be for Watson or moving up. There will probably be plenty of teams looking to move up for quarterbacks, but the cost of moving up four spots in the draft would be significantly less than prying Watson away from Houston.

If Justin Fields is the second option on the Panthers’ list of quarterbacks, they should be aggressive in moving up to acquire him. With the Bridgewater era in Carolina seemingly over, the franchise is all in on finding their long-term answer at the position this offseason.