Post by: Kurt Knaak

Let’s get ready for some football! The Carolina Panthers take on the Buffalo Bills in preseason play Friday, August 26th at Bank of America Stadium!

This off-season for the Carolina Panthers was anything but boring.

First, the plans to build the “Best in Class” training/workout/practice facility in Rock Hill, SC were dashed when David Tepper pulled the plug on the project. His real estate company, GT Real Estate Holdings, a subsidiary of Tepper Sports & Entertainment (TSE), ran into some disagreements with the city of Rock Hill and York County regarding bond money supposedly needed to fund a portion of the project.  

When the three sides couldn’t come to a resolution, TSE bailed. To underscore the fact that the decision was made based on a lack of funding, GTRE subsequently filed for bankruptcy protection, leaving numerous contractors and providers holding nothing but a handful of liens. But, a deal is a deal. I’m not sure who is right and who is wrong, but usually in business disputes there is enough blame to go around and unfortunately this mess will take some time to sort out.

Next up was the annual draft in the spring.

It’s always an exciting time for NFL fans and a welcome wave of football energy injected during the downtime doldrums between the Super Bowl and training camp. Yep, you guessed it, I don’t watch baseball.

Our needs were great: quarterback, offensive line…..repeat. Quarterback, offensive line…..repeat. Quarterback, offensive line……repeat.

You cannot have a top-tier NFL team, and I mean a division winning team at the very least, without a top-tier quarterback. No other position on the team is that important by itself. So, the focus was obvious to all of us fans, but the solution was not so easy. Do you trade Sam Darnold? Will any team take him? Do you draft a rookie QB and work through the two to three year learning curve with losing seasons? All tough choices for Panther GM Scott Fitterer.  

So, the long-range planners went with rookie QB, Matt Corral. I think he was a good choice because the Panthers didn’t trade up to get him in the third round.  Nothing was wasted and he had a very solid college career, so he brought promise, until he was ruled out for the season this week.

As for the offensive line, the Panthers scored a home run with their choice of Ikem Ekwonu with the number six pick in round one. This kid is a stud and will anchor the Panthers’ O-line for years to come. Without a player like him, it wouldn’t matter if they had Tom Brady at QB because he would get sacked constantly. Ikem is just one man and one step towards protecting our QB, whoever it may be, but he is a very good start.

And, finally, if the demise of the training facility and the smart choices in the draft weren’t enough excitement in the off-season, along comes the decision to trade for Baker Mayfield.

What??!!?? Yep, Baker Mayfield. I did not want this to happen, but I’m just a whiny fan. The Panthers’ front office certainly knows more than I do and they decided to roll the dice.  

The deal is actually sweet for the Panthers. Baker trimmed his salary voluntarily by $3.5 million and the Browns agreed to pick up $10.5 million of the total contract, so it is only costing the Panthers $5 million this season. Additionally, the Panthers only gave up a fourth or fifth round draft pick, depending on Baker’s playing time.  

On paper, this is a financially smart deal for Carolina. On the field, time will tell.  Baker is a former overall number one pick and will bring a level of energy to the team that I don’t see with Sam. He will also have a chip on his shoulder which will serve him well especially in the opener against Cleveland on September 11. The other piece is that the competition for the starting job will now feature three QBs rather than two. Competition is always a good thing when the team needs to bring their best this season under third-year coach Matt Rhule. The clock is ticking!

Bank of America stadium is the backdrop for one of our absolute favorite areas in Charlotte’s west side, Wesley Heights.

It’s one of the few officially designated historic neighborhoods and it has maintained its 1920s charm. Wesley Heights has a beautiful greenway, funky restaurants (including Pinky’s) and several breweries. If you want to know more about living in Wesley Heights give Kurt Knaak a call.