Many Panthers fans eagerly anticipated this year’s free agency period in hopes the team would make some major splashes, which they have. New defensive tackle Dontari Poe could be everything Star Lotulelei was and more. The potential addition of Bashaud Breeland had fans excited as well until he failed a physical. Signing him is still an option later in the offseason, depending on how his heel heals over the coming months. But while fans were disappointed when Sammy Watkins and Allen Robinson went elsewhere, the Panthers were quietly patching the hole that actually sunk the team’s hopes last season.
When looking back at the playoff game in New Orleans, the Carolina Panthers were obviously lacking something. That something was wide receiver depth. The Panthers have a young, promising receiving corps in Devin Funchess, Curtis Samuel, and Damiere Byrd. The problem was, all three guys were banged up last season. Only Devin Funchess suited up against the Saints and he was clearly not at full strength. This led to sure fire touchdowns being dropped by guys like Kaelin Clay and the Panthers trotting out guys like Brenton Bersin and Russell Shepard as second and third options. But the Panthers are gearing up to make sure this does not happen in 2018.
The Panthers have added multiple veteran receiving options and could add more as time goes by. Instead of looking at these veterans as overpriced players who will take snaps away from the other guys, look at them as insurance policies. Expensive insurance policies, but when is insurance cheap? The addition of Torrey Smith from the Eagles is a gamble, no doubt, but if it pays off he could be a very good third or fourth wide receiver. And if he is not what the Panthers are looking for, none of his contract is guaranteed, so they can cut him without wasting any cap space. And while players like Donte Moncrief are getting almost $10 million fully guaranteed, this Smith gamble is a lot easier to stomach. Another wide receiver signing with the team is Jarius Wright, formerly of the Vikings. Wright is another guy who is reportedly getting paid more than anticipated, but both he and Smith come from winning cultures as their previous teams just met in the NFC Championship game.
My point is not to get your hopes up that Smith and Wright are going to be Pro Bowlers. I still believe the Panthers need to get Cam Newton a top of the line weapon, maybe in the NFL Draft this year. But the major contribution these wide receivers provide is allowing Samuel and Byrd to come back at their own pace. And if Samuel and Byrd come back fully healthy, then Smith and Wright are a pretty good fourth and fifth option. Depth at receiver is almost as important as a top end guy, especially since a couple of receivers are coming off injuries. The Panthers depth chart at wide receiver is worlds better than at the end of last season. You could be looking at your top five wide outs being Funchess, Samuel, Byrd, Wright, and Smith, and that makes me feel a lot better than the Law Offices of Shepard, Clay, Bersin and Frazier.