How Panthers drafting Ikem Ekwonu impacts Jimmy G trade


The start of the 2022 NFL Draft on Thursday had 49ers fans wondering about a Deebo Samuel trade, but one first-round selection kept hopes of dealing quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo afloat.

A Garoppolo trade could still be in the cards after the Carolina Panthers drafted North Carolina offensive tackle Ikem Ekwonu with the No. 6 overall pick, opting not to address their need for a quarterback.

Carolina’s next pick isn’t until the fourth round at No. 137. Any prospective quarterbacks will be long gone by the time it’s the Panthers’ turn to pick again, meaning the door remains wide open for them to pursue a veteran signal-caller after the draft.

The 49ers happen to know one who is available. Carolina currently has Sam Darnold and P.J. Walker as the only quarterbacks on its roster, but Baker Mayfield is also on the trade market after the Cleveland Browns inked Deshaun Watson this offseason. 

Garoppolo’s shoulder surgery in March put a halt to any trade talks that likely would have occurred before the draft. He has gone on the record to say his recovery is going well, and 49ers general manager John Lynch said on Monday that the 30-year-old is on track to be throwing by the end of June.

Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer on Tuesday said the team would look at all options when it comes to securing a starting quarterback -- not just the draft -- but declined to comment on specific available veterans.

“Why are some quarterbacks available who are out on the market? You have to ask yourself that,” Fitterer said.

RELATED: Why Texans are team to watch for Jimmy G trade post-draft

The 49ers drafted Garoppolo’s replacement, Trey Lance, with the No. 3 overall pick last year. They believe he is ready to start, and also wouldn’t mind unloading Garoppolo’s $25 million in cap space in order for Lance to take over.

When it comes to actually completing a Garoppolo trade, San Francisco has to be encouraged by Carolina’s first-round decision.

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