One of the pressing questions of the NFL’s early offseason was emphatically answered Friday, when the Chicago Bears traded the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft to the Carolina Panthers for a package that included wide receiver DJ Moore, two first-round picks ( 2023 and 2024) and two second round picks (2023 and 2025).
The move marked the first time since 2016, when the Los Angeles Rams moved on quarterback Jared Goff, the No. 1 pick taken before draft day.
The move resets the draft strategy for both teams and could dramatically change the landscape for teams hungry for quarterbacks selected in the top 10. The top two betting favorites to be the No. 1 pick as of Friday night were former Ohio quarterback C.J. Stroud ( -225 ) and former Alabama quarterback Bryce Young (+175), according to Caesars Sportsbook .
NFL reporters David Newton and Courtney Cronin offer details on what the big game could mean for both Carolina and Chicago in the April 27-29 draft and beyond.
What does this deal mean for the Panthers?
That means Alabama’s Bryce Young, Ohio State’s CJ Stroud or Kentucky’s Will Levis will be Carolina’s starting quarterback at some point in 2023, perhaps even Week 1. Although Carolina doesn’t have deal with one of the three right now, according to a source with direct knowledge of the trade talks, would be hard to sell with Florida’s Anthony Richardson, who is considered more of a project.
But controlling the top pick ensures that general manager Scott Fitterer and coach Frank Reich will get their preferred quarterback to work with Reich’s staff, senior assistant Jim Caldwell and first-year quarterbacks coach Josh McCown.
The early favorites for the No. 1 pick are Young and Stroud, both of whom seemed to impress the Carolina staff the most at the NFL combine, particularly Young.
“It’s like he has composure,” Fitterer said of the 2021 Heisman Trophy winner, whose only real drawback is size (5-foot-10, 204 pounds). “Nothing is too big for him.”
A quarterback operating on a rookie deal will give Carolina room to continue building the rest of the roster. A veteran like Jimmy Garoppolo or Sam Darnold could also be added if the money is right, though there’s a chance the market for middle linebackers could get too steep for the Panthers’ liking.
The pick should also energize a fan base that has grown weary of a three-year revamp of quarterbacks including Teddy Bridgewater, Sam Darnold and Baker Mayfield. It gives the organization hope that it has the player who can scale (and eventually surpass) similar heights to Cam Newton, the top pick in the 2011 draft who won 2015 NFL MVP honors and led Carolina to a Super Bowl.
Look for the Panthers to be active at wideout in free agency given Moore’s departure. A source with direct knowledge of the trade talks said the team wasn’t thrilled about losing Moore, but his surrender prevented Carolina from sending an additional first-round pick to the Bears. Carolina could also look to upgrade the tight end position to help their potential new quarterback. The Panthers didn’t have a true receiver from Greg Olsen in 2019.
Bottom line, this means the franchise quarterback that owner David Tepper has wanted since he bought the team in 2018 is finally in his hands.
— David Newton
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What does this deal mean for the Bears?
Dealing the top pick in the draft reaffirms Chicago’s faith in quarterback Justin Fields, who doesn’t have to wonder if the Bears will take one of their bright QB prospects with the No. 1 pick. It confirms what second-year general manager Ryan Poles has been saying, that Fields has improved enough in his second year to be considered a potential franchise quarterback.
And this trade allows the Poles and manager Matt Eberflus to upgrade the talent level around Fields.
The acquisition of DJ Moore, who turns 26 on April 14, improves Chicago’s receiving corps. Moore, Carolina’s 2018 first-round pick and No. 24 overall pick, finished his time with the Panthers as the fourth-leading receiver in franchise history. In six seasons, he totaled 5,201 yards on 364 receptions and scored 21 touchdowns. He combined for three 1,000-yard receiving seasons from 2019-21 and scored a career-high seven touchdowns last season.
Those numbers are better than those of the top wide receivers available in free agency, a group highlighted by New England’s Jakobi Meyers and Kansas City’s JuJu Smith-Schuster. Adding a receiver in a year where depth in free agency and the draft isn’t great was a strong move, especially considering the Bears’ current WR group of Darnell Mooney, Chase Claypool, Equanimeous St. Brown and Velus Jones Jr.
Chicago now has four picks in the first 64 and 10 overall draft picks. The Bears can still land a high-impact player with the ninth overall pick, but the possibility of adding the draft’s top defensive prospect seems out of reach. Alabama running back Will Anderson fell short of Arizona at No. 3 in ESPN NFL draft analyst Todd McShay’s recent mock draft.
It’s possible the Bears could consider drafting Georgia defensive tackle Jaylen Carter at No. 9 to fill a critical need in their interior pass rush, but the situation surrounding Carter — who recently was considered the top player in the draft — it’s not clear. was charged March 1 with reckless driving and racing in connection with a crash that killed a Georgia teammate and recruiting staff member.
With needs up front on offense and defense, Chicago could look to Northwestern offensive tackle Peter Skoronski. McShay had the Bears trade up twice and take Skoronski at No. 7. If Skoronski goes to No. 9, he could be another player to help Fields develop.
Chicago has a significant cap space between the No. 9 pick and the second-round pick at No. 53, which it acquired from Baltimore after trading linebacker Roquan Smith last November. The Bears’ second-round pick (No. 32) went to Pittsburgh in the Claypool trade.
Finding a way to fill a void of 44 picks may be the Poles’ next challenge.