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Panthers 2023 season opener countdown: 48 days to go

We’re counting down the days until the Panthers kick off the 2023 season.

Indianapolis Colts v Houston Texans Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

We’re 48 days away from the Panthers 2023 season opener, so that means today’s countdown piece is devoted to No. 48 on the roster — linebacker Jordan Thomas.

File this player profile under “I didn’t see this one coming”.

Honestly, I had to do a couple of Google searches to ensure I was researching the right player. The Panthers website lists Jordan Thomas as a linebacker but the only “Jordan Thomas” with NFL ties I could locate was a former tight end who hadn’t played in a regular season game since 2020.

Is this the same guy?

Yes. Yes it is.

Before Jordan Thomas began his NFL career in 2018 he spent two years at Mississippi State as a tight end with limited output of 31 receptions for 311 yards. Despite the underwhelming college stats he was drafted in 2018 in the sixth round by the Houston Texans. He had a good rookie season for a late-round pick with 20 receptions, 215 yards, and four touchdowns. In 2019 he hit the injured reserve and played in just five games. The Texans waived him before the 2020 season.

In 2020 he was signed to the Arizona Cardinals practice squad and later elevated to the active roster. He appeared in four games with the Cardinals but played just two offensive snaps (which included a three yard touchdown reception) and 17 special teams snaps. Arizona waived him in November and he was quickly claimed by the New England Patriots. Thomas played two games for the Pats with seven offensive snaps and eight special teams snaps and was later released by the team.

In 2021 Thomas signed with the Indianapolis Colts but was waived during roster cuts with an injury settlement.

He spent 2022 and 2023 in the XFL, playing both seasons at tight end. In 2023 he had eight receptions for 148 yards and three touchdowns. Now, he did get some reps on the defensive side of the ball with the Orlando Guardians, but before that the Panthers website reported he hadn’t played defense since his freshman year in high school in 2011.

And now he’s listed as a linebacker on the Panthers roster?

Yeah, it’s a bit of a headscratcher for me, too.

Now, at 6-foot-5 and 280 pounds, Thomas has great size. After spending his college and pro career at tight end up to this point, he should have some decent athleticism, too. As Thomas said in the previously referenced post on the Panthers website, “This league is all about the more you can do. So I’m open to whatever, honestly. Be an athlete, and that’s what I’ve been my whole life. It’s just been fun.”

Carolina is lacking depth at both tight end and linebacker, so perhaps they’re going to do something unprecedented and magically transform Jordan Thomas into a two-way depth piece to plug holes on both sides of the ball. Frankly, I’d love that if they could pull it off. I’m rooting for him and it would be a great story. But the chances of that happening are slim. It will be tough for Thomas to stick around in Charlotte no matter which side of the ball he plays on, and only time will tell if the experiment works.