Carolina Panthers Free Agency: Interest in Other Receivers Is Not Surprising

Nader Ktait@@NaderKtaitCorrespondent IIMarch 27, 2017

CHARLOTTE, NC - OCTOBER 24:  David Gettis #12 of the Carolina Panthers smiles after scoring a touchdown against the San Francisco 49ers during their game at Bank of America Stadium on October 24, 2010 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The recent news of Jacoby Jones visiting the Carolina Panthers has brewed up a lot talk and confusion among Panther fans. Carolina already has wide receivers not only from last years roster but also from this year's draft.

So why are Ron Rivera and Marty Hurney still meeting with other receivers?

The first possibility is that Rivera wants to bring in another punt returner, since this is a position that Jacoby Jones is known to do well in. But there's a problem with this reasoning: the Panthers have drafted punt return specialist, Joe Adams, and there doesn't seem to be any doubts from Rivera or Hurney about whether Adams can do well in the NFL. There's no point then to bring in Jones as an insurance policy to Adams.

This leads us to question whether Jones could be brought in order to provide more depth to Carolina's receiving core. In this case, Jones would compete for the second receiver spot against Brandon LaFell and David Gettis. Unlike the first possibility, this one seems more likely.

It should be no surprise that Rivera would consider bringing in another wide receiver to compete against LaFell and Gettis. In a sense, this is just like what happened last season right before the Panthers started their preseason games in 2011. At that time, Rivera brought in Legadu Naanee from San Diego, even though the Panthers already had Gettis and LaFell.

Gettis was healthy then and had shown some signs (the following season) that he could become second receiver. LaFell wasn't too bad either.

For instance, in the 2010 season, when Gettis was catching balls mostly thrown by former starting quarterback Jimmy Clausen, Gettis had a total of 508 yards and 3 touchdowns. Brandon LaFell, on the other hand, had 463 yards and only one touchdown.

Shortly before the start of the 2011 season, Gettis unfortunately tore his left ACL and was out the whole season. LaFell, however, was healthy but Rivera was not going to hand him the starting spot that easily.

Before the 2011 season even started, both Gettis and LaFell didn’t seem to show Rivera that they were able to handle being the second receiver. So as a result, Rivera brought in Naanee, and when asked why Naanee was brought in, Rivera responded that Naanee's veteran presence would be good for team. Rivera also went on to say:

“Probably the biggest thing is we've had nobody step up other than Steve [Smith]. We've got to find guys that are going to step up and challenge for the position. This is an opportunity to have a guy that understands the system, knows the system, can help show the young guys how to do the system and what it takes to be a pro. He's been a good pro. He's been a guy that was on the field for the Chargers and was successful for them. We think this is a guy that could help us in that respect.”

It'll be a little more unusual if Rivera felt the same way about LaFell this coming season.

Last season, Brandon LaFell seemed to be, at times, even more productive than Naanee, and this might have been the reason why the Panthers did not bring back Naanee and why LaFell is still on the roster. 

According to Adam Shefter, the Panthers claimed that they were really happy with how LaFell performed last season and believe that LaFell is "poised for a breakout" this season. So this gives me even more reason to think that Jones' visit to Carolina is a little strange.

Are the Panthers really confident that LaFell will do well? 


Then there's Gettis, who will be making his return this upcoming season. Although Gettis says that he's "93 percent" recovered from his injury, there's always this doubt in the back of one's mind, that this player might not be the same as he used to be. This seems to be the case with a lot of players that come back from significant injuries.

Hopefully, that's not the case with Gettis, because I would love to see what he can do with a quarterback like Cam Newton.

But Gettis' return is definitely the most significant, especially with respect to the issue regarding the Panthers' interest in Jones. It may be case that the Panthers do believe in LaFell but are they have doubts about Gettis? And if so, could Jones be the backup plan to Gettis?

There's also a good chance that the Panthers won't even sign Jones, but I don't think that will change the point I'm trying to make about Rivera's confidence in the receivers he already has.

In all honesty, I don't think the Panthers need any more depth at wide receiver. I think Gettis and LaFell will do a great job. Gettis, in particular, must be real eager to participate in a offense, like the one Carolina ran last season. But it doesn't matter what I think—it all matters whether Rivera thinks the Panthers need more help at that position.

I really hope Rivera agrees with me, though.