With the Carolina Panthers coming to terms with Jarius Wright, all of a sudden their wide receivers depth chart is looking awfully crowded. Just two weeks ago there was plenty of vacancies. Now, not so much. Lets take a look at how the position is shaping up.
The Roster Locks
Devin Funchess is a lock, obviously. He is now the primary wide receiver target for Cam Newton. Funchess made great strides last season and could continue to improve. If so, he may improve himself right off the Carolina Panthers roster next season as they may not be able to afford him once his rookie contract expires.
I believe newly acquired Jarius Wright is also a roster lock. You don’t pay a 2 million dollar signing bonus to a guy you will cut in a few months. Guaranteed money of that caliber typically means a guaranteed roster spot. Wright will give Cam Newton a reliable and consistent presence in the slot, something he has not had in a long while.
Some say Torrey Smith is not a roster lock, but I believe he is. Smith is the elder receiver on the team and has by far the most game experience. Ron Rivera glowed when he talked about Smith’s ability to stretch the field and force defenses to adjust. He isn’t going anywhere. Smith is a lock.
Curtis Samuel was last year’s high second round pick. That fact alone makes him a roster lock. However, I suspect he will start training camp on the PUP list. If he cannot go at the start of the season, he will be out for at least the first six weeks. This could allow for another receiver to stick around a bit longer.
That makes four “roster locks” leaving room for only one maybe two more receivers.
On the Bubble
These guys may make the squad, but there is no guarantee. Especially so if the Carolina Panthers select a wide receiver early in the draft.
Damiere Byrd is a guy many folks want to be a lock, myself included. Byrd has grown into a legitimate NFL receiver. Should the Panthers decide to keep six receivers (at this point a strong possibility), Damiere has a great chance of making the team. If not, He will be placed on the practice squad as an exception and called up if needed.
Russel Shepard has gotten a lot of hate from the fan base, more than he deserves. Shepard underwhelmed last season, but it was not all his fault. Shepard was frequently wide open out of the slot but seldom seen or thrown to. I am interested to see how he flourishes now that the Carolina Panthers have a legitimate offensive coordinator. Also note, Shepard plays special teams. Smith and Wright do not.
Lastly, Brenton Bersin, the player that draws the most love and hate of any player on the roster. He does anything he is asked to do, and last season was one of the more reliable receivers down the stretch. Anyone that counts Bersin out does so at their own peril.Agree? Disagree? You can sound off right here with thousands of Carolina Panthers fans.