Will the Carolina Panthers ever have a WR1 again?

When Carolina sent DJ Moore to Chicago in the trade that allowed them to pick hopefully their franchise QB in Bryce Young, they left themselves without a WR1. The question now becomes: Will the Carolina Panthers ever have a WR1 again?

Well, of course, the answer is yes, but how long will it be is the more realistic question. From research and historical trends, it could be.... a while, like years.

But, before we dive in, what exactly is a WR1? To me, and I"ll be using my definition, it's a WR that has the ability to be a true difference maker when on the field. A receiver who can get open quickly and consistently, who can win against press man, zone, or any type coverage. A guy who's open even when he's not open, a guy who the QB feels confident in to win a jump ball and one the QB will throw to when in trouble and expect the WR to bail him out.

You know, just a damn good receiver.

So, how can Carolina get one of those? There are several ways: trade for them, aquire them as a Unrestricted Free Agent, draft them, or grab one that's cut on a contract dump.

Trade for one:

Let's get our WR1 via trade, that should be easy enough. Sounds simple, but the market for a NFL WR1 is a land mine. To get a WR1 via trade takes draft capital, and a lot of it. Not to mention a lot of available cap space. Here's the latest trades for WR1 quality receivers over the last several years:

A.J. Brown: 1st and a 3rd plus a massive contract extension

Calvin Ridley: 4th and a 5th, but he's been out of the league for a year, and his mental stability was questionable.

Kadarius Toney: 3rd and a 6th, but, he's been saddled by injury and has yet to be consistently on the field and available.

Marquise Brown (borderline): 1st

Tyreek HIll: 1st, a 2nd, two 4th's and a 6th plus a massive contract extension

Devante Adams: 1st and a 2nd plus a massive contract extension

Amari Cooper: Two 5th's and a 6th. This was a steal draft capital wise, but Cleveland inherited a massive contract.

Julio Jones: 2nd and a conditional 4th, but, he was 100 years old at the time of the trade.

Stefon Diggs: 1st, a 5th, a 6th and a future 4th

DeAndre Hopkins: 2nd and a future 4th plus a great running back.

As you can see, trading for a WR1 takes a ton of draft capital unless there is an extenuating circumstance like coming off injury, age, contact dump, etc. Plus you'd have to give them a massive contract upgrade. Carolina is already without a 2024 1st and a 2025 2nd in the trade for Bryce Young, so they don't really have the draft capital to trade for anyone. Plus, the Panthers have a limited number of players under contract for next season and will be spending almost all their available cap just to field a team.

Chance of aquiring a WR1 via trade: Slim, almost anorexic.

Let's just get a UFA:

Every year rookie contracts run out, so do veteran contracts for that matter. And every year, teams allow players to test the open market. However, WR1's are rarely in that category. They are so important, teams do everything they can to hold on to a WR if he's in that caliber.

Here's who's available:

Player - Age when available


Mike Evans - 31.5

Calvin Ridley - 30.2

Tee Higgins - 26.1

Michael Pittman Jr. - 27.4


Keenan Allen = 34.8

Mike Williams - 32.4

Chris Godwin - 31.0

Amari Cooper - 32.7

Diontae Johnson - 30.6

Jerry Jeudy - 27.9

CeeDee Lamb - 27.9

Justin Jefferson - 28.1

Amon-Ra St. Brown - 27.4

There are some big names coming available in the next 2 years, but do the Panthers really have a shot at any of them?

Evans is already in contract extension talks with Tampa.

Ridley is a candidate actually, because JVille gave Kirk the big bag last year, and his dead cap would be $21 million to cut him, so they may not be able to pay Ridley to stay.

Allen, Williams, Godwin, Cooper and probably Johnson will either be too close to aging out, or already aged out to be in real consideration to pay a huge contract for a season or two at best. They'll command much more than Thielen did.

Jeudy, Lamb, Jefferson and St. Brown would most likely be franchise tagged if they can't reach a deal. They are all too good of recievers to let walk away.

That leaves Tee HIggins and Michael Pittman as the two remaining UFA's. I listed both of these guys, but truth be told, Higgins is more of a 1B type reciever. Good, and productive, but would be best served as the great compliment WR to another equal guy on the roster, which the Panthers don't have. Michael Pittman could be a possibility. He's a very good reciever hampered by piss poor QB play. I mean, he caught 99 balls last year from Matt Ryans' skeleton and Sam Ehlinger. But even as productive as he's been, he somehow just doesn't get you all that excited to have him as a WR1. I mean, he is one, but he isn't.

Chance of getting one through free agency: Slim

Let's just draft one:

We'll just draft us one of those WR1's.

Well, if we're honest, the Panthers have had very little success drafting WR's in the franchises' history. For that matter, the entire NFL misses way more than hits on WR. In the last 10 years, 99 WR's have been taken in the first round. Only 15% have at least one All-Pro season. For every Justin Jefferson, there are 15 Jaelen Reagors. For every Ja'Marr Chase there are 30 Kelvin Benjamins. For every Antonio Brown (6th rounder) there are 100 Shi Smiths.

Without a 2024 1st round pick, and without a 2025 2nd round pick, the Panthers are even more limited in their abilitiy to draft a WR1. If you draft a 1st round WR, you get one of the "top" 5-8 guys on your draft board at the position. Add in the 2nd round and you get one of the "top" 8-15 guys on your board. Even though it doesn't guarantee success, getting your choice of the top WR's increases your chances of hitting. Without those two picks in the next two years...

Chance of getting one through the draft: Slim

Let's just pick up one that's been released:

That's how we'll do it, we'll just pick up a WR1.

Well, that opportunity was just presented to the Panthers when DeAndre Hopkins was released. The Panthers had the 2nd most cap space in the NFL available, and nary a peep was heard about the Panthers showing any interest.

But, maybe Hopkins age scared them off. So let's look at the guys who fit the WR1 description who possibly could become available due to contract dump to free up cap space for teams.


Tyler Lockett/DK Metcalf - both are set to make over $24.5M in 2024. If Jaxon Smith-Njiba proves to be as good as advertised, one of those guys could be sacrificed to save $$. Lockett is more of a 1B type, really good, but not exceptional. Metcalf could be a possibility, he's shown he can be a deep threat as well as a great possession guy. Would the Panthers be willing to give another $20+ million contract the same year they give Brian Burns that much?


Terry McLaurin - $23.6M If Jahan Dotson shows true WR1 potential, Scary Terry may be a cap casualty after 2024 He's right in the wheelhouse for the Panthers. He'd be the best WR since Steve Smith and could significantly upgrade the Panthers roster at WR. Could they land him though? Could they?

That's pretty much it for WR1(ish) receivers who would still be young enough to have value.

Chance of getting a released player: Slim, very slim.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the chances of getting a WR1 in the first half of Bryce Youngs contract are not looking that good. We can all hope for that miracle WR drafted in the 2nd or 3rd round who just slipped through the cracks and turns out to be a monster at the NFL level, but the chances of that are slim to anorexic as well.

But all is not lost.

While having that WR1 is great and makes any offense that much more efficient all around, you can still win with a makeshift group at the WR position. This year, the Panthers will have a couple of deep threats in Chark and Marshall. A couple of intermediate threats in Marshall and Mingo. A saavy vet who can get open quick in Thielen, and a good gadget, YAC guy in Shenault. With great play calling and scheme, you can win with a group like this. A group that has some good receivers, just not great receivers. Speaking of hope, I've added Marshall to two categories. At this point, let's just hope he makes the team and can contribute anything.

So, as I say, all is not lost.

But wouldn't it be great to have that dominant WR1??? Why yes it would.

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