NFL Rumors: Panthers Were Interested in Sam Howell, Drafted Matt Corral Instead

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVMay 6, 2022

Carolina Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer speaks during a press conference at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Wednesday, March 2, 2022. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
AP Photo/Michael Conroy

The Carolina Panthers reportedly tried to trade up for a quarterback on multiple occasions during the 2022 NFL draft before selecting Ole Miss' Matt Corral in the third round.

Mike Sando of The Athletic reported Friday the Panthers also had some interest in UNC's Sam Howell, who came off the board to the Washington Commanders in Round 5.

"They tried to get up for a quarterback a few times, and at one point I heard they were interested in Howell, but then they made the big move for Corral, and it just felt like a continuation of their entire offseason," an NFL executive told Sando.

Carolina was heavily involved in the Deshaun Watson sweepstakes before the Houston Texans traded him to the Cleveland Browns.

It left the Panthers without a clear direction under center in 2022. Sam Darnold and P.J. Walker, who combined for 10 touchdowns and 16 interceptions last season, return. Meanwhile, Corral and undrafted free-agent signing Davis Cheek have been added to the quarterback room.

Trading up to obtain Corral suggests he's a strong bet to receive at least some playing time as a rookie. An early look at the 2023 draft class suggests it'll feature more promising QB prospects than this year, led by Alabama's Bryce Young and Ohio State's C.J. Stroud.

So if the Panthers struggle, and that's a distinct possibility given the lack of a proven quarterback option, they'll likely be in the market for a signal-caller next offseason.

Reaching that point without at least seeing what they have in Corral wouldn't make any sense given the trade up. So a likely outcome is Darnold and Walker splitting the first half of the season followed by the Ole Miss standout taking over for the final eight or nine games.

An executive told Sando that Panthers owner David Tepper was likely a factor in the deal to land Corral, albeit indirectly.

"The owner in Carolina has put so much pressure on them to find the quarterback, find the quarterback; they could have felt pressure to just throw the dart," the unnamed exec said.

Acquiring a franchise quarterback is the single most important factor in building a contender, so it's hard to blame Tepper for urging his front office to pull out all the stops.

That said, the Panthers' search has been frenetic between the trade for Darnold last year and now the draft move to get Corral. Those are low-percentage moves compared to a blockbuster trade for a Pro Bowler or picking a QB in the top-five of the draft.

So bottoming out this season to put themselves in position to draft Young or Stroud is probably the best thing that could happen, but teams are obviously going to do everything in their power to avoid the perception of tanking following allegations by former head coaches Brian Flores of the Miami Dolphins and Hue Jackson of the Cleveland Browns.

Perhaps waiting another round or two to grab Howell, who was viewed as a potential No. 1 overall pick before a lackluster 2021 season, would have been the safer play in the draft.

Of course, if Corral emerges as a legitimate franchise signal-caller, all of the talk surrounding whether the Day 2 pick was warranted will quickly fade away.