Everyone agrees that the Panthers need a veteran WR (even more if Steve Smith is traded), a #1 WR if possible, but the cash required to re-sign DE Charles Johnson, OLB James Anderson, OLB Thomas Davis, DT Derek Landri, OLB Nick Harris, along with perhaps RB DeAngelo Williams (I'm tilting no), QB Matt Moore, TE Jeff King, and TE Dante Rosario (I'm leaning yes). Those re-signings, along with the need to sign a vetern free agent DT, CB, and backup QB, the Panthers will likely be limited to the lower end of the WR free agent market (so no Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards, ect.).
The Panthers need a dependable, sure handed (all their WR's had so problems with drops last season),big WR (unless Steve Smith is traded, when it shifts more toward a small/fast WR) and even better if he has good speed (in case he's paired with Brandon LaFell, 4.62-40 (a Pro Day 4.54-40). The Panthers could spend big money for a top older veteran WR, but that would only take reps away from Gettis and LaFell, delaying their development, and they wold be gone by the time the Panthers are ready to start being winners again. For that reason the Panthers would probably be better off focusing on veteran WR's still in their mid to late 20's.
Here is my short list of who I think are the most cost effective free agent WR options, who fit the above needs:
1. Mike Sims-Walker (6-2, 214, 4.35-40, 26 years old) of the Jaguars (#79 pick in 2007). The Jaguars are not happy whith him (Why?), and didn't even put a restricted tag on him, so no compensation. He's from Orlando, stayed at UCF, and wants to join college teammate WR Brandon Marshall with the Dolphins, but the Dolphins are on the verge of wanting to dump Marshall. I'm guessing his price will be around $4-5 million a year. He doesn't play as fast as his timed speed. He missed his first year and a half with a knee injury, and here are his numbers.
2008 - 9 games, 1 start, 16 catches, 217 yards, 13.6 yard average, 0 TD's, a long of 32 yards
2009 - 15 games, 14 starts, 63 catches, 869 yards, 13.8 yard average, 7 TD's, a long of 61 yards (TD)
2010 - 14 games, 14 starts, 48 catches, 562 yards, 13.1 yard average, 7 TD's, a long of 39 yards
2. Laurent Robinson (6-2, 197, 4.38-40, 26 years old) of the Rams (#75 pick of the Falcons in 2007). He had a good rookie season with 37 catches, but somehow got into the coaches doghouse the next season (only 5 catches), and was traded to the Rams after the season. He got off to a great start with the Rams the next season with 13 catch in the first 3 games (around 65 catches it it had contuined on that pace for the full season), but was injured in that 3rd game, missing the rest of the 2009 season. He rebounded with 34 catches last season, though his YPC was low at 10.1, but Bradford's low YPA keept all the receiver averages low. Robinson can play any WR position, and best of all he will probably come cheap, $1 million or less per season probably. Here are his numbers.
2007 - 15 games, 6 starts, 37 catches, 437 yards, 11.8 yard average, 1 TD, a long of 74 yards (TD)
2008 - 6 games, 1 start, 5 catches, 52 yards, 10.4 yard average, 0 TD's, a long of 23 yards
2009 - 3 games, 3 starts, 13 catches, 167 yards, 12.8 yard average, 1 TD, a long of 45 yards
2010 - 14 games, 11 starts, 34 catches, 344 yards, 10.1 yard averade, 2 TD's. a long of 32 yards
3. Steve Breaston (6-0, 189, 4.46-40, 27 years old, was the #142 pick of the Cardinals in 2007. Breaston is probably only an option if Steve Smith is traded, and he has a long-tem problem with his knees. His performance only dropped off a little with their poor QB play in 2010, but his YPC went up by over 2 yards, He will probably cost around $3.5 to 5 million a season. In his rookie season he was used mostly as a returner, but not since. Here are Breaston's numbers for the last 3 years.
2008 - 16 games, 10 starts, 77 catches, 1,006 yards, 13.1 yard average, and 3 TD's
2009 - 15 games, 6 starts, 55 catches, 712 yards, 12.9 yard average, and 3 TD's
2010 - -games, - starts, 47 catches, 718 yards, 15.3 yard average, and 1 TD