As the NFL draft approaches, Carolina Panthers GM Scott Fitterer informs Sam Darnold that “there’s a pretty good chance we can add” quarterback

CHARLOTTE, NC – Carolina Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer met with Sam Darnold on Monday and told the No. 3 pick in the 2018 NFL draft “there’s a pretty good chance” the team will add a quarterback over the upcoming draft weekend.

Fitterer said at Tuesday’s pre-draft press conference that there are two quarterbacks that the team feels confident choosing with the sixth overall pick. Liberty’s Malik Willis and Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett have been consistently rated the highest among draft analysts.

Fitterer also said the team had off-draft options to add a quarterback. He did not name Baker Mayfield of the Cleveland Browns or Jimmy Garoppolo of the San Francisco 49ers, as he is not allowed to discuss players on other lists under league rules.

But Fitterer again stressed that Carolina wants to “stabilize the quarterback position” and noted that the best solution in the long run is with a young player in the draft.

“I mean you want to work one out and develop it and make it your own,” he said. “There’s cost-effectiveness involved in that. And also, why are some quarterbacks available out there in the market? You have to ask yourself that.”

The Panthers have been trying to upgrade as a quarterback since ending their second five-win season in a row under Matt Rhule, who was not part of the pre-draft press conference. They were willing to give the Houston Texans three first-round draft picks, players and second draft picks for Deshaun Watson.

Watson was eventually traded to the Browns, who are now seeking to move on from Mayfield, the top pick in 2018. A league source told ESPN.com shortly after Cleveland assured Watson that Carolina was not interested in Mayfield at the time.

That may change depending on the deal and what happens in the draft, with several sources saying nothing will happen before the first round.

Garoppolo has never been high on the team radar because he is not considered much of an upgrade from Darnold.

A league source told ESPN on Tuesday that it does not look like the Browns will swap Mayfield this week.

The Panthers, even if they are interested in one of the veterans, do not have the capital this year to act realistically. After the sixth election, they do not vote again until No. 137 in the fourth round.

Fitterer also made it clear that he does not want to swap future draft picks, noting that he has had several conversations with teams asking to give up a pick in the second or third round next year, “and my answer has been no, we want to protect those choices. “

The Panthers have a big gap between the picks because a year ago this year’s second-round pick was part of the trade with the New York Jets for Darnold, and the third-round pick was abandoned in a swap deal with Jacksonville for cornerback CJ Henderson.

As much as Fitterer would like to add second-day picks, he repeatedly said “we are not going to move out of a pick just to acquire picks.”

Quarterback and offensive tackling are Carolina’s primary goals for the sixth pick. NC State’s Ikem Ekwonu, Alabama’s Evan Neal and Mississippi State’s Charles Cross are rated for the best tackles in a deep class.

At least two of them are expected to be gone when Carolina picks six.

Part of Fitter’s offseason strategy has been to rebuild an offensive line to protect the quarterback. He added guard Austin Corbett and center Bradley Bozeman in free agency.

That was part of his conversation with Darnold, who is guaranteed $ 18.9 million this season because Carolina picked up her fifth-year option after the trade a year ago.

“We have to help him too,” Fitterer said. “I think we’ve done a good job … surrounding him with talent where he does not feel he has to play every single game.

“But in our conversation I said, ‘Hi, we’ll add to this [quarterback] group through this weekend, there’s a pretty good chance we can add to this group, “said Fitterer.” It’s an open competition. It’s his place right now, but the one who can take the place and run with it, we do. “

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