As it stands right now, the Panthers have 14 Wide Receivers on the roster. Eight of the WR's are/were UDFA's, and the average age of a Panthers WR is 24 years old. And while, in all probability, only 6 WR's may find themselves on the opening day roster, the Panthers may be seeking to develop their WR's in a similar way to that of the San Diego Chargers and other Air Coryell Offenses.
Steve Smith, Brandon Lafell, David Gettis, Keaolha Pilares, and Joe Adams are all near locks to make the roster (barring any unforeseen changes in the status quo), however the 6th WR spot is up for grabs. Vying for the position the Panthers have Armanti Edwards, Seyi Ajirotutu, Chris Manno, Rico Wallace, Jared Green, Wes Kemp, Hubert Aniyam, Brenton Bersin, and Darvin Adams.
Unlike some of the bigger market teams, the Panthers are seeking to cultivate their own talent through the draft and low level free agent signings, rather than signing whichever top money player hits the open market. Recent history has shown that this is the way that championship teams are built, putting emphasis on player development, coaching, and schematic discipline, rather than bloated contracts and aged superstars.
This tenet is visible in the buildup of Wide Receivers we have seen this offseason.
Traditional Air Coryell doctrine dictates that WR's be well seasoned in their craft before seeing significant playing time. As such, some WR's spend years on the practice squad or riding the bench before they are allowed to sniff the field. Rather than writing off WR X because he doesn't see the field right away, it is likely that the coaching staff is trying to develop the WR, so as to perfect the 'little things' and work on blocking, route running, understanding of the playbook, etc...
A prime example of this ideology is the development of WR's on the San Diego Chargers. For example, All Pro wide out Wes Welker signed with the Chargers as an UDFA in 2003, and made the opening day roster before being cut after Week 1. Welker would sign with Miami and further his development as a Special Teamer in '04 and '05 before seeing an increased role in the offense, and being traded to New England.
In addition, the Chargers drafted Vincent Jackson in the 2nd round of the 2005 NFL Draft. However, Jackson did not see very much playing time, as the Chargers staff sought to heal his injuries and acclimate him to the NFL. Jackson would finish his rookie season with 3 receptions for 59 yards. Jackson would see an increase of playing time in 2006, accruing 27 receptions 453 yards and 6 TD's, before receiving the starting job in 2007.
Malcom Floyd was signed as an UDFA in 2004 after attending the University of Wyoming. Floyd would spend two seasons on the practice squad perfecting his craft before making the active roster in 2006, amassing playing time in place of the injured Eric Parker. Floyd would reprise a similar role in both 2007 and 2008, before being promoted in 2009 after the Chargers released Chris Chambers. Floyd would see success as a starter, catching 125 balls for 2,349 yards and 12 TD's in 39 games over a three year period, highlighted by a 19.9 YPC rate in 2011.
In light of this, don't be down on Ajirotutu (1 reception in 2011), Pilares (0 receptions in 2011), Edwards (0 receptions in 2011), or any of the other young WR's on the roster. Coach Chudzinski, WR's Coach Fred Graves, and consultant Ricky Proehl are working with the youngsters, preparing them for NFL action, and the prospect of playing with the first team.
If I had to guess who would make the roster, I'd give the nod to one of the holdovers from last season. After spending last season absorbing knowledge and experience on the practice field, players like Armanti Edwards, Kealoha Pilares, Seyi Ajirotutu, and Darvin Adams have a head start on the rookies, however, I wouldn't count out any stand out special teamers or gifted athletes.