New Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer has made a splash in free agency and quickly shored up some positions of need. Here is one important stat from each of the new faces on offense.
David Moore, WR - 8.9 average depth of target
Through his first three seasons Moore was often targeted on deep passes from Russell Wilson. In 2018 his average depth per target was 15.9 yards and in 2019 it was 14.2 yards, and over those two seasons his quarterback’s rating when targeting him hovered around 90. But in 2020 the Seahawks started using him differently and targeted him on shorter routes with an ADOT of just 8.9 yards. The shorter routes led to a stellar quarterback rating of 140.7 when he was targeted, meaning he was highly effective on underneath routes. The reason Moore was so productive is because he was among this league’s best in getting separation. In 2020 his 4.1 average separation yards ranked fourth in the NFL.
Why this matters: Moore can fill some of the void left by Curtis Samuel’s departure at about $9 million less per season. In 2020 Samuel was the Panthers short route specialist with an average depth of target of 7.3 yards. Robby Anderson’s ADOT was deeper at 9.7 and DJ Moore was the deep ball specialist with an ADOT of 13.2 yards.
Contract: 2-years, $4.75 million
Dan Arnold, TE - 9.7 yards per target
Hallelujah! The Panthers have a tight end who can catch passes! As a member of the Arizona Cardinals last year, Arnold posted career highs with 31 receptions, 438 yards, and four touchdowns. He was targeted 45 times which means he sported a healthy 9.7 yards per target. To put that in context, last year Ian Thomas produced a paltry 4.5 yards per target on 31 targets.
Why this matters: The duo of Ian Thomas and Chris Manhertz was probably the NFL’s least productive pair of tight ends. Together they produced just 26 receptions for 197 yards. Arnold, who just turned 26, is coming off a 400-plus yard season. Even if he just replicates his performance in Carolina in 2021, that could have a huge impact in opening up the offense. Arnold won’t kill a defense, but they will have to account for him. Combine him with a healthy Christian McCaffrey and the Panthers new trio of wide receivers, and that’s an incredibly talented group of skill players.
Contract: 2-years, $6 million
Pat Elflein, G - 48.0 PFF grade
In 2020 Elflein played 419 offensive snaps in seven games for the Vikings and Jets with. I have a hard time judging offensive line play, so I’m just going to use PFF as one data point to assess his performance last season. PFF gave Elflein a 48.0 grade which trails both of Carolina’s 2020 starters in Chris Reed (63.0) and John Miller (61.1).
Why this matters: PFF is not the be-all and end-all for judging a player, especially with just one year’s data. Another way to look at this is Elflein won a starting job as a third-round rookie in 2017 and held down starting jobs over the last four years for two teams (Vikings and Jets) and at two positions (center and guard). Carolina was shockingly thin at guard and has a gap at backup center, too, and Elflein can help address both of those needs.
Contract: 3-years, $13.5 million
Cameron Erving, OT - 5 positions
During the course of his six-year NFL career Cameron Erving has played all five offensive line positions. His versatility should be an asset once the seasons begin, injuries happen, and holes along the offensive line need to get filled.
Why this matters: Left tackle has vexed the Panthers since, like, Colonial America times. If the season started today, Erving would likely be the starting left tackle. Based on his past performance this isn’t ideal but could be worth a shot. Now, when it comes to the draft, I’m hoping the Panthers land their franchise quarterback at No. 8 then nab a Day 1 starting left tackle at No. 39. This would allow Erving to slide to guard or be flexed across the offensive line as needed.
Contract: 2-years, $10 million
Which player will make the biggest impact in 2021?
This poll is closed
David Moore, WR
Dan Arnold, TE
Pat Elflein, G
Cameron Erving, OT