CHARLOTTE - Now it's official. And now the Panthers are on the clock.
With the start of the NFL's new league year at 4 p.m., the trade with Chicago for the first pick in this year's draft is now in the books, and the Panthers know they will have their choice of this year's top quarterbacks.
Whether it's Alabama's Bryce Young, or Ohio State's CJ Stroud, or Florida's Anthony Richardson, or Kentucky's Will Levis, the Panthers know they'll be able to add the kind of top-shelf quarterback they haven't had in some time.
But they've been here before. This is the third time in franchise history the Panthers have held the No. 1 overall pick.
In 1995, the expansion team won a coin flip with Jacksonville for the first pick and eventually ended up trading down to the fifth spot and taking quarterback Kerry Collins.
In 2011, they earned the top pick the hard way, and used the top pick on quarterback Cam Newton.
Both choices paid immediate dividends.
Collins helped lead the Panthers to a 12-4 record, the NFC South title, and the NFC Championship Game in just their second season.
Newton became the first rookie quarterback to throw for over 4,000 yards and also broke the record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback that year (14). He also won league MVP honors in 2015, leading the Panthers to a 15-1 record and a berth in Super Bowl 50.
The Panthers can only hope this deal works out as well.
It came at a significant cost, as they gave up this year's first-round pick (ninth overall), a second-rounder obtained from the 49ers (61st), their 2024 first-rounder, their 2025 second-rounder, along with wide receiver DJ Moore.
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But the chance to acquire a young quarterback and break out of a cycle of veterans-of-the-year was something they clearly valued and wanted to take a chance for.
New coach Frank Reich, who put together a staff tailor-made to coach a young quarterback, also knows how hard it is to get out of that rut.
He had his guy when he took the Colts job in 2018, but Andrew Luck's sudden retirement prior to the 2019 season left him starting a different quarterback in each of his five seasons there.
"In every way, it's better prepared me," Reich said of his experiences in Indianapolis. "You take the circumstances that you were dealt and the things that you did and that you were part of. You learn from them, the good and the bad; there were both of those in that. You learn from those, but then you get to every year, and every year is an independent year from the previous.
"You obviously always want stability at quarterback. I think that's a huge lesson learned for me from the last time around. What is our best answer for stability at quarterback in the near term and long-term future?"
The Panthers still don't specifically know which quarterback they'll answer that question with. That's what the next six weeks of pro days and visits and meetings are for.
But they now know that they have the means to potentially answer it.