We can’t be sure what happened in those war rooms in Buffalo and Charlotte on Friday night.
But we suspect there were some shenanigans afoot.
Just moments before the Carolina Panthers went on the clock to make the No. 64 pick, the NFL draft “Trade Alert” flashed on the screen, courtesy of the Buffalo Bills – now coached by former Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott.
Jaws cracked open in the media room inside Bank of America Stadium, and then hit keyboards as it was announced that the Bills’ pick was Temple offensive lineman Dion Dawkins – a rumored Panthers target who reportedly was one of Carolina’s top-30 visits.
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Oh, and the trade partner?
An NFC South rival: The Atlanta Falcons. Gasp!
Now, we aren’t saying McDermott pulled a Dr.-Evil-pinkie-to-mouth move as this trade occurred.
But here is what he did tell an Associated Press reporter after the maneuver: “When I asked him if he had a gut feeling about what Panthers were going to do, McDermott laughed and laughed again and then said: ‘Well said.’ He then added that ‘you do your homework and you look at needs (of the Bills and other teams).’ He then noted the Panthers did take an (offensive lineman). Though unsure whether they were going to take Dawkins, he said: ‘We wanted our guy.’”
Carolina Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman wouldn’t say whether the team’s original plan – before getting leap-frogged by the Bills – was to draft Dawkins.
But a chuckling head coach Ron Rivera did say he was texting McDermott.
“I’m going to poke at him a little,” he joked, and added seriously that he thought his former defensive coordinator was “doing a really nice job” in the draft.
The Panthers did end up with a little tackle insurance – and a solid prospect, at that – in Western Michigan tackle Taylor Moton. Moton played a starter’s share of snaps at both right tackle and at guard in college, and was a Senior Bowl standout. At 6-foot-5 and a playing weight of 320 pounds, Moton expects to compete at right tackle.
This gives the team some needed depth at right tackle, with the playing status of former starting left tackle (moved right) Michael Oher in question. The Panthers also have Daryl Williams in place. He would likely be the starter if Oher isn’t recovered from last year’s season-ending concussion by the time training camp comes around.
Maybe – maybe – it gives the Panthers a little chip on their shoulders come Sept. 17 – when the Panthers host the Bills at Bank of America Stadium.