Sean Pendergast

Four Thoughts on Carolina's Blockbuster Trade to Jump the Texans in 2023 NFL Draft

C.J. Stroud is the betting favorite to go first overall to the Carolina Panthers now.
C.J. Stroud is the betting favorite to go first overall to the Carolina Panthers now. Screen grab from YouTube
Ever since the Houston Texans went out and secured an improbable win over the Indianapolis Colts in the final week of the 2022 season, a win that knocked the Texans down from the top spot in the 2023 NFL Draft to the second spot, speculation has run rampant about what the Chicago Bears, the new owner of the first overall pick following Week 18, would do with the pick.

Do they hang onto it and take the bets player available, whoever that is, maybe even a quarterback to replace Justin Fields after two seasons|? Or do they trade it for a haul of draft capital to accelerate their rebuild over the next couple seasons?

Well, Friday afternoon, we got our answer, and the Bears chose to flip that pick, trading the No. 1 overall pick to the quarterback-starved Carolina Panthers for the following assets:
So we know now that the Texans will DEFINITELY be selecting the second quarterback in the draft, and it's just a matter of who that quarterback is. There is a lot to unpack from this deal, so let's do it right here:

So Bears GM Ryan Poles wasn't lying last week, I guess?
Last week, at the combine, Poles was bragging to anybody who would listen that he had a standing offer of a first round pick in both 2024 and 2025 for the first overall pick. It felt like posturing at the time, but I guess I'll hand it to Poles — he definitely had a big haul at the end of his fishing hook and on Friday he reeled it into the boat. Granted, he didn't end up with first round picks in 2024 and 2025. The 2025 pick was a second round pick, but he received a substantial haul overall. Also, if Carolina is starting a rookie quarterback next season, that first round pick from the Panthers should be pretty high in the 2024 draft. Nice job by Poles.

Who will it be for the Panthers, and more importantly, the Texans?
So now we wait with great anticipation to see who the Panthers select first overall. Chances are they will play their cards very close to the vest, maybe even hoping the Texans could offer something to move up one spot, if the Texans think the Panthers will be selecting the QB that Nick Caserio covets. Most experts think that Caserio likes Alabama's Bryce Young. For what it's worth, the offshore sports books moved Ohio State's C.J. Stroud to a strong -350 favorite to become the first pick overall, so the Texans may end up with the guy they wanted all along in Young anyway.

The big losers — the Indianapolis Colts!
Colts owner Jim Irsay has made it very clear that he is hoping to select a good, young quarterback for his team, which has cycled through literally five different veteran starters in five seasons. Irsay even went as far as to say "the kid from Alabama" (Young, obviously) is a pretty good football player. Well, I got bad news for Irsay and Colts GM Chris Ballard — the Panthers are taking a QB at number one, the Texans are taking a QB at number two, and the Cardinals at number three will be open for trade up business for the third QB in this draft. The Colts sit at fourth overall, and best case is they wind up with a project quarterback in Anthony Richardson or Will Levis.

Could Carolina now be a landing spot for Brandin Cooks?
One really nice pickup by Poles in this deal, in addition to the draft capital, is veteran wide receiver D.J. Moore, who is one of the better pass catchers in the league, and is still young (25 years old). His cap figure is a very reasonable $17.4 million. So Carolina will be drafting a young quarterback whose best potential target, ironically, was included in the trade for the pick used to select said quarterback. So the Panthers need veteran help at wide receiver, so why not make a phone call and see if they would be interested in Brandin Cooks for, say, a third or fourth round pick? Definitely worth the dime for the phone call, just to gauge interest.

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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts the morning drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the pre-game and post game shows for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast