When it was announced yesterday that the Carolina Panthers had just completed a trade for WR Louis Murphy there were a variety of opinions. Based on the immediate reactions on Twitter that I saw most Panthers fans quickly went to wondering 'why'? After all, this appeared like a lateral move at best, especially with David Gettis still in the fold. Analysts went in two directions; some pegged this as an insurance policy for Gettis, others saw Murphy as a potential starting receiver who got a raw wrap in Oakland, someone who would push Brandon LaFell, and possibly even win the starting job.
Coming out of Florida's pro-style offense Murphy filled the flanker role in Urban Meyer's offense. Regarded to be a third round talent he was ultimately selected in the fourth round after coming off a late knee injury. On draft day he was yet another punchline in Oakland's endless comedy on draft day. After selecting Darius Heyward-Bey in the first round based almost solely on speed, the Raiders went back to the well and got the next fastest receiver in the draft in Murphy.
What happened next was unexpected, as Murphy ran rings around Heyward-Bey during their rookie seasons as he finished with 34 receptions for 521 yards and 4 touchdowns, despite starting two games less than DHB, and having to deal with Jamarcus Russell at quarterback.
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With the 'incredible bulk' leaving Oakland the offense was turned over to the hands of Bruce Gradkowski, and later Jason Campbell. In his second year with slightly better QB play Murphy improved further as he finished with 41 receptions for 609 yards. Again though, he was only given nine starts on the season despite proving himself to be one of the most reliable receivers on the Raiders.
2011 began with yet another regime change for the Raiders. The once storied 'Commitment to Excellence' became a commitment to flux, and it was the absolute perfectly wrong time to struggle with an injury. With new WR Denarius Moore in the mix, along with a finally developing Heyward-Bey and Jacoby Ford it became impossible for Murphy to get any semblance of playing time after missing the first five games due to injury. Though active he didn't see playing time in weeks six or seven, and was inactive on another two occasions. Overall his disappointing third year wasn't what pundits had expected as he finished the year with 15 catches for 241 yards while appearing in just six games.
What do we then make of Murphy? It's a question we don't really have the answer to yet. Talk to fans of the Raiders and they paint a picture of a hard-working, tough guy caught in a bad situation. They acknowledge that Murphy is far more talented than the 'conditional late-round' compensation they received, but also know he didn't really fit the new regime.
In games Murphy started over the last three years he averaged 3 receptions for 39 yards, mediocre to be sure-- but remember that Gettis averaged 3 receptions for 37 yards during his rookie season. Quarterback play is a huge variable, and I think most would agree that the Matt Moore, Jimmy Clausen, and Brian St. Pierre is probably on par with Jamarcus Russell, Bruce Gradkowski, and Jason Campbell.
In Carolina the role carved out for Louis Murphy is in the slot, where he might actually be more suited to the role than David Gettis. While he possesses a good frame (6'2", 213 lbs) he also has outstanding speed, and decent hands. His route running wont blow you away, but it is a cut above Gettis' right now.
Seeing his role in Oakland diminished, and losing his place as a featured part of the offense Murphy requested a trade before his rookie deal was up. Mock the stats all you like, but in 2009 and 2010 he was the leading WR in Oakland, which is a testament to how bad their passing offense was. Now in Carolina he's reunited with Cam Newton, who he spent time with at Florida and he has a new lease on life. With this deal done Murphy best be ready to trade in the breezy bay for the swelter of Spartanburg and we'll all get a chance to see him work in the offense starting on Saturday.