Earlier this month, I highlighted four players who would make sense to be potential targets for the Carolina Panthers, which can be read here. That list has certainly grown the past few days with teams releasing wide receivers who could actually end up being the better bargain for the Panthers.
Ted Ginn Jr.
Panthers’ fans should be familiar with this wide receiver who spent the 2013 season with the team and had an excellent year here. While a member of the Panthers he caught 36 passes for 556 yards (15.4 yards per reception average) and five touchdowns.
The time in Carolina was short lived though as he headed out west last offseason on a three-year, $9.75 million dollar contract to play for the Arizona Cardinals. It was a down year for Ginn finishing the year with only 14 receptions for 190 yards and no touchdowns. The emergence of rookie John Brown made Ginn expendable and he was cut this offseason to save cap space.
The biggest draw to the Panthers bringing Ginn back would be that he already has a familiarity with the offense and quarterback Cam Newton. He has already proven that he can be successful in this offense. The biggest positive though would be his experience as a return man, which is something the team hopes to address this offseason.
Jacoby Jones is another experienced return man who is currently looking for work after the Baltimore Ravens cut him earlier this week. Jones signed with the Ravens in 2012 and after two seasons worked out a new deal worth $12 million dollars over four seasons. He only made it through one after a down year, one in which he caught only 9 passes, had a total of 18 targets and 131 receiving yards.
The connection between Jones and the Carolina Panthers dates all the way back to 2012 when he visited with the team after the Houston Texans released the wide receiver. He eventually decided to join the Ravens that year but the Panthers may have another chance to bring Jones aboard. The reason for the Panthers interest this time around, similar to Ginn, would be his experience as a return man. He could fill the role as the team’s fourth wide receiver as well provide a deep threat on the outside.
This was a little bit of a surprise to see the Atlanta Falcons release wide receiver Harry Douglas. At 30 years of age he still has some years left and even though 2014 was a down year (51 receptions, 556 yards and 2 touchdowns) he is still only one year removed from his breakout season (85 receptions, 1,067 yards, 2 touchdowns).
The Falcons have two premier wide receivers in Julio Jones and Roddy White which didn’t always give Douglas the chance to truly show his ability. This was one of the reasons his 2013 was so impressive because this was his first real chance to be a top wide receiver in the Falcons offense. Douglas is probably the only wide receiver among this group that could be considered a true number two wide receiver alongside Kelvin Benjamin.
If the Panthers want to bring in a slot receiver through free agency, former Miami Dolphin Brian Hartline could be the man. He had back to back years of 70+ receptions and 1,000 receiving yards before struggling this past year. This past season Hartline saw his targets cut almost in half and was due in large part to the emergence of rookie Jarvis Landry, who ended up leading the Dolphins in receptions.
Hartline is a reliable pass catcher who can move the sticks when he gets the ball. Last year almost 70% of his receptions accounted for first downs (27 first downs on 39 receptions). A veteran like Hartline in the slot with potentially a rookie wide receiver on the outside and Benjamin on the other side would cause a great deal of problems for opposing defenses.