Whomever the Carolina Panthers draft first overall in the 2023 NFL Draft, it seems the team already has a bridge quarterback lined up.
The Panthers are expected to reach a deal with veteran quarterback Andy Dalton on a two-year, $10 million contract, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. The deal reportedly includes $8 million guaranteed and a maximum value of $17 million.
Veteran free-agent QB Andy Dalton is expected to reach agreement on a two-year, $10 million deal that includes $8 million fully guaranteed with the Carolina Panthers, per source. Contract max value is $17 million. pic.twitter.com/GCBhqpQ0H8
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 14, 2023
Dalton is coming off a season with the New Orleans Saints in which he started 14 games in relief of the injured Jameis Winston, who was sidelined with back and foot injuries after Week 3 and didn't get his starting job back once he was healthy.
In those 14 games, he posted 2,871 passing yards, a 66.7 completion percentage, 18 touchdowns, nine interceptions and 7.6 yards per attempt for the 7-10 Saints.
After previous seasons spent as the Chicago Bears' bridge quarterback with Justin Fields and as a backup for the Dallas Cowboys, the former Cincinnati Bengals starter figures to enter a familiar situation in Charlotte.
What will the Panthers do at QB?
The Panthers landed the first overall pick in a trade with the Bears last week that saw them give up top wide receiver D.J. Moore, the ninth overall and 61st overall pick of the 2023 draft, a first-rounder in 2024 and a second-rounder in 2025. It was an enormous price, but also possibly the right one for a team that has struggled heavily to find a franchise quarterback since the departure of Cam Newton.
The team seemingly has four notable options at quarterback with the top pick: Ohio State's C.J. Stroud, Alabama's Bryce Young, Florida's Anthony Richardson and Kentucky's Will Levis. All four present their own pros and cons, but Stroud has been seen by many as the top talent after a strong performance at the NFL scouting combine.
In addition to Dalton, the Panthers also still have last year's third-round pick, Matt Corral, who missed his entire rookie season with a Lisfranc injury. All three quarterbacks who started for the team last year — Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold and P.J. Walker — are unlikely to return or have signed elsewhere.
With Dalton aboard, it seems likely he begins the season starting under center while the top pick develops, just like he did in Chicago ahead of Justin Fields, unless either of the young quarterbacks balls out ahead of the season.