We’ve got a good mix of draft, free agent and trade stuff in this week’s mailbag. Let’s dive into it …

From Matt Ramas (@matt_ramas): Which QB will the Panthers take at No. 1?

Matt, I don’t know. Very few people do. But if I’m putting puzzle pieces together here, knowing what I do about the prospects, my guess would be that Alabama’s Bryce Young is the leader in the clubhouse, and that he set the baseline for the Panthers as they started to aggressively pursue a trade for the No. 1 pick. In that scenario, Carolina would be saying, implicitly, it’d be satisfied taking Young there, while giving the other three presumptive first-round quarterbacks a shot to catch or pass him over the next six weeks.

Now, as for what I know, the Panthers do have a couple of quarterbacks that they’d be comfortable spending the first pick on. I don’t know definitively who they are. But I do know the plan is to go through all the requisite predraft paces—from pro days to 30 visits in Charlotte to private works, dinners and all the rest—with Young, Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, Florida’s Anthony Richardson and Kentucky’s Will Levis, to see if anyone else leaps into the top group (and also assure those there for Carolina really belong there).

Panthers coach Frank Reich attended Ohio State’s pro day on March 22.

Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

If that happens, a short trade back is possible, with the only nonnegotiable being that the Panthers come away with a quarterback. The more likely conclusion, of course, is that they will stick at No. 1 and pick one.

And if I had to guess which one, I’d say Young. But I’ve got five weeks to change my mind.

From Raul (@raulvibe): Are the Cards trading out of the third spot? Who would be realistic targets trying to come up?

Raul, I think they’d like to, yes, and they’re in a good position to do so. If you, like most of the league, assume the first two picks are quarterbacks, and add Colts owner Jim Irsay’s hunger to get a long-term answer at QB at No. 4 into the equation, then new Cardinals GM Monti Ossenfort could find himself in the draft’s catbird seat.

The reason: Given all the above, the only way to ensure that you’ll get one of the top four quarterbacks, if you’re outside the top four picks, goes right through Arizona.

As for which teams should be on Arizona’s radar for a trade, you really can’t rule out the Seahawks or Lions coming up for one, though that seems unlikely. After that, the Raiders already tried to trade up once (with the Bears). They’d be coming from No. 7. And you’ve got the Falcons (8), Titans (11) and Commanders (16), though I’d say, at least with Atlanta and Washington, you’ve got teams executing plans to be more economical at the position.

So, yes, Arizona’s in a good spot. But getting proper value for the pick might be a challenge.

From Robert (@RobertRaymond46): What do you think the Cardinals get in a DeAndre Hopkins trade?

I don’t think it’ll be what they wanted initially. The ask had been a second-round pick and another asset. Based on indications I’ve gotten, that sort of return simply isn’t coming. I do think he’ll bring back more than Brandin Cooks did for the Texans—Houston got a 2023 fifth-rounder and ’24 sixth-rounder for him from the Cowboys—but it’ll probably be closer to that than what Arizona is looking for.

The reason why? He’s missed 17 games in the past two years (11 because of injury), he’s about to turn 31 and he’s coming with strings attached (one being that he really doesn’t practice during the week, which is more manageable in some places than others). Because of that, you can immediately eliminate teams that are rebuilding, have a rookie quarterback or might need a culture change (where the highest-paid players need to drive the atmosphere). That means the market is limited. He’s also owed $19.45 million for 2023.

That said, when he’s been on the field, he looks like he’s got plenty left to give. So while it may not be what they want, Arizona will probably get something for him.

From Arrowhead Live (@ArrowheadLive): Where do the Chiefs stand in the DeAndre Hopkins and Odell Beckham Jr. markets as of today?

From Joe Johnson (@joeyj84): Is it realistic to think the Chiefs could get both OBJ and D Hop? Or is it more than likely one or the other?

Arrowhead and Joe, the Chiefs have shown interest in both Hopkins and Beckham. And they’ll add a receiver somewhere along the line (at least one in the draft, probably regardless), to join Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Kadarius Toney and Skyy Moore. Whether it’s one of the two names you presented here, I think, will come down to cost.

Right now, Kansas City has around $10 million in cap space. That’s on paper, and doesn’t include what its draft class will cost to sign, or account for any breathing room it will want to carry into the season. So realistically, the idea of taking on Hopkins’s contract as is, or meeting the initial demands that Beckham had for his suitors, would be nonstarters. The good news is both have shown a willingness to work with teams on the money.

How far they’d be willing to go is an open question, and that’d likely be the determining factor on whether they land in Kansas City. The reason Hopkins or Beckham would consider taking less to be Chiefs, of course, is obvious. Andy Reid has effectively turned the Chiefs into what the Patriots used to be—a place vets can go to chase rings and reestablish their market values, while working alongside a top coach and quarterback. If Beckham or Hopkins want that, the door’s open.

It worked for JuJu Smith-Schuster last year. It could for them. So this will come down to what their priorities are, relative to how their respective markets shake out.

From Squidward Tentacles (@SquidwardTests): Would you rather fight 10 Jordan Mailatas or 25 Darren Sproleses?

I would probably rather fight 10 Mailatas because I’d have a better shot at running away.

From Rubix Cube Sports (@RubixCubeSports): What do you think the Lions should do for their backup QB position? Draft or free agent?

Rubix, I think they should absolutely do all the things you’d do if you were them and you were planning to take a quarterback with the sixth pick—the pro days (although I know they were only sending Chris Spielman, their assistant college scouting director and an area scout to Ohio State’s), the private workouts, the 30 visits … all of it. And the reason why actually has little to do with Jared Goff, who’s played really well, on balance, for two years.

It's that, if you’re Dan Campbell and Brad Holmes, and you just finished 9–8, on fire at the end of the year with a promising young nucleus, your hope would be that you won’t be picking that high again for a long, long time. In fact, the only reason you’re picking that high this time around is because you have someone else’s pick (the Rams’). So, again, if I were them, I’d have to be 100% sure I’m not passing on a golden opportunity in not taking a quarterback.

That’s the first step, even though they feel good about Goff (and they should). After that, I think you look at a Day 3 player who can be dependable and develop, like maybe Purdue’s Aidan O’Connell or Fresno State’s Jake Haener.

From Nick Fer1 (@NickFer1): Yesterday you wrote “Garoppolo didn’t say it, but, of course, it’ll be refreshing in other ways, too. He won’t be looking over his shoulder for the first time in a couple of years.” How is this the case when the Raiders most certainly at some point will be drafting a QB?

Well, Nick, I’d start in the same place with this as I was with the Lions—the Raiders are picking seventh, and it’s incumbent on them to investigate the quarterbacks as thoroughly as possible, to prepare for the event that any of them fall to that spot, so they’d at least know what they’d be passing on (Josh McDaniels and Dave Ziegler being in Columbus for Stroud’s pro day is a good sign they’re doing that).

After that, if it’s still only Jimmy Garoppolo and Chase Garbers on the roster, it’s fair for Garoppolo to assume that the Raiders will take one at some point in the draft, with guys like Haener and O’Connell, or even Hendon Hooker, in play for Las Vegas. I also think Jimmy’s been through enough in his career to understand the way all of this works: Until a team is sure it has its guy, it has to keep pulling levers to get the position right.

Regardless, Garoppolo’s going to take the first snap in the spring and summer, and in Week 1. I believe that McDaniels is going to have him at his best, and in position to leave no doubt about who the guy is.

“They were one of the first groups to reach out and just talk to us in the early stages of it, and that kind of got me excited about it,”Garoppolo said about Las Vegas.

Candice Ward/USA TODAY Sports

From CeeFo Bane (@ceefourbane): Would you expect the new Commanders owner to take a big swing on a quarterback this offseason or the next?

CeeFo, I’d pretty much rule out much hands-on involvement from the new owner this offseason on who the quarterback is going to be. It’s highly unlikely that there’ll be a vote at next week’s annual meeting—there isn’t one on the current agenda for the three days in Arizona, and there are still multiple bidders involved—which means the other owners will likely usher in the newest member of their club at the spring meeting in May.

By the time we get there, the hay is usually in the barn on all the big quarterback moves for a given year. And in most cases, a new owner will give it a season before getting involved in big-box football moves, anyway.

Now, if you’re asking about 2024? Then, yeah, I’d assume the new guy will be in on it.

From Bruce Bates (@batesbruce): What are the chances of the new Commanders owner doing a rebrand of the team name?

Bruce, very doubtful. Per the rules, the Commanders can’t even change their uniforms until 2027. And it’s been a year. To me, the jury’s out on the name, for now. I know I personally need some time before deciding whether I’m in on it.

From Greg (@panther1gb89): Besides signing Thielen, what else does Carolina do at WR?

Greg, I think at this point, you’re probably looking toward the draft. The hope would be that Adam Thielen will give the rookie quarterback a nice, experienced security blanket, and they’ll get more development from Terrace Marshall Jr. and Laviska Shenault Jr., tight end Tommy Tremble gives them a little something, and they supplement all that at some point in the draft.

I wouldn’t expect anything earth-shaking at the position. If everything works out, I could see that happening in 2024.

From Jacob M (@mesekej): What is the most likely WR move for the Patriots? Really hope it's not nothing because it seems like it'll be hard for them to compete in the AFC without one. Thanks!

Ehhhhh … sorry Jacob. I can’t find anyone in that building who thinks DeAndre Hopkins will be a consideration for Bill Belichick, and at this point New England hasn’t been in it. The Denver receivers, to me, would be more likely, but the prices on those guys are high right now. If the cost comes down, I certainly could see the Patriots taking a swing on Jerry Jeudy, who played for Belichick’s old buddy and with the coach’s current quarterback at Alabama.

If that doesn’t happen, I certainly could see New England taking a swing on a receiver over the first two days of the draft—be it at 14th, 46th, or 76th (I do think Jaxon Smith-Njigba would be a really nice fit for new OC Bill O’Brien’s offense).

From Skol Gonzo (@skolgonzo): The AFC is loaded with QB talent. With Brady retiring & Rodgers/Wilson moving to the AFC in the last two offseasons, has there ever been such a discrepancy between the two conferences? How does the NFC start closing the gap?

Skol, let’s take a look at the under-30 starting quarterbacks in each conference.

AFC: Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Joe Burrow, Lamar Jackson, Deshaun Watson, Trevor Lawrence, Justin Herbert, Tua Tagovailoa, Mac Jones, Kenny Pickett.

NFC: Jalen Hurts, Dak Prescott, Kyler Murray, Daniel Jones, Sam Howell, Jared Goff, Jordan Love, Justin Fields, Baker Mayfield, Desmond Ridder, Brock Purdy.

Now, we’re gonna have the Panthers’ draft pick thrown into the NFC group. But then, there’ll likely be draft picks in Houston and Indianapolis added to the AFC group.

So, yeah, I’d say the disparity between conferences in quarterback play is as stark as I can remember—I grew up in an era when the NFC dominated, scoring routine Super Bowl blowouts, but even then, John Elway, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino were in the AFC—and the ages of the guys involved indicate it’ll be that way for a while. That said, maybe next year, Caleb Williams and Drake Maye will land in the NFC and things change a little.

From DefendTheDen (@Vretz2121): With OBJ's seemingly lukewarm market money-wise, can you realistically see him reuniting with the Rams?

Defend, probably not. Odell Beckham Jr. clearly loved playing in L.A. But the question now is why he’d go back there. The Rams aren’t going to meet his financial desires—not in a year that they’ve earmarked as a reset, with over $55 million in dead money set to be carried on their books. And given that, it’s probably not the best place to go chase a championship this year, either.

So I see Beckham elsewhere in 2023.

From Kyle Warwick (@kyle_warwick): What’s the consensus on Will Levis’s stock after Anthony Richardson showed out during the combine?

Levis threw 43 touchdowns in his two seasons at Kentucky. 

Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports

Kyle, I’ll have to do more digging, but I think Levis did fine in drills. The response I got on interviews was a bit mixed. His personality is a little different; some will like it and others won’t (the people at Kentucky loved him, for what it’s worth). And while his tape was shaky in 2022, there are rumblings that he was playing through a bunch of injuries last year that would justify some of the ups and downs.

We’ll obviously have more on him, and the other QBs, in the coming weeks.

From Richard Ito (@rich_ito): After a huge spending spree last offseason, the Jags have not signed anyone from another team this year. Would this be the biggest one-year difference in spending by a team? Has a team ever not signed an external free agent before?

No, it wouldn’t be unprecedented. Generally if you spend a huge amount one year, you’ll be more restrained the next year. That’s how the salary cap works.