Panthers coach on No. 1 draft pick, free agency moves: ‘We mean business’

CHARLOTTE — The head coach for the Carolina Panthers spoke Monday afternoon for the first time since the team’s recent roster moves.

Frank Reich, as well as General Manager Scott Fitterer, addressed the media around noon on Monday. It’s the first time we’ve heard from Reich and Fitterer since the Panthers traded to acquire the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft from the Chicago Bears.

In return, Carolina exchanged its No. 9 and No. 61 overall picks in 2023, a first-round pick in 2024, a second-round pick in 2025 and star wide receiver D.J. Moore, two people familiar with the deal said.

“I feel more freedom we can actually get the guy we want. I feel that more than I feel pressure,” Reich said Monday.

“[We’re] going to draft a quarterback at No. 1, he’s going to get a lot of reps,” Reich added.

Fitterer said the conversation about that trade started several weeks ago at the NFL combine. He said he knew it would be expensive with so many quarterbacks in the draft and a lot of teams who need one. The Panthers and the Bears found a spot that worked for both.

“Do we have inclinations, do we have feelings, do we have evals written out on paper and in our minds? Yeah, we all do,” Reich said. “There’s a lot of conviction, as Scott said, on some of these top quarterbacks -- the old adage ‘don’t make a decision before you have to,’ we’re going to take every second, every hour, every day to make this decision.”

Fitterer said it wasn’t an easy decision to trade D.J. Moore.

“It hurt,” he said.

On Sunday, the Panthers also agreed to terms with free agent wide receiver Adam Thielen from the Minnesota Vikings.

Last week, the Panthers agreed to terms with running back Miles Sanders, tight end Hayden Hurst and quarterback Andy Dalton, giving the offense experience at the skill positions.

Reich said he believes the Panthers’ recent moves are sending a message.

“We mean business,” he said.

With so much attention to what the Panthers have planned at quarterback, it’s easy to overlook what the team has been doing across the board -- including key players they just added in free agency or leaders they’ve been able to hold on to.

On the flip side, the organization found a way to hold on to some of its leaders, including linebacker Shaq Thompson and Bradley Bozeman on the offensive line.

“Was talking to Mr. Tepper and Scott the other day,” Reich said. “I really feel like we’re putting this guy in a good position with some of the pieces we signed.”

Reich said all of it will help to complement a young quarterback. He said whomever they pick, a huge factor in deciding when he’ll play will be when both their new quarterback and the team are ready.

Four of the top quarterback prospects will be working out at pro days this week and next. The Panthers plan to attend all of them.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

(WATCH BELOW: Frank Reich talks offseason acquisitions)

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