Correct me if I'm wrong, just going out on a limb here, but it seems like you're assuming that they go the free agency route to find a wide receiver.
I see a few guys that can be a great number three or even a very good number two in the NFL Draft that can be taken in the second or fourth round. I also see a handful of wide receiver that the Panthers could take in the first to be Smith's successor.
If the Panthers truly believe they are on the verge of the playoffs, a championship, or whatever; then look for proven veterans to come in at the vet minimum (i.e. Canty) instead of young and unproven players (i.e. Barden).
I don't know what we are going to do---which direction we are going. Just thinking of options.
Not saying that there aren't any, but I don't know of any WRs off the top of my head who is deemed to have WR1 potential in the draft who won't be gone by probably early, perhaps late, second round. Moreover, I don't see us picking up a guy in FA that is considered to possess that type of talent either. That being said, why not upgrade the WR2s, 3s and 4s if you can do so on the cheap?