2023 Dynasty Fantasy Football Free Agency Preview: Carolina Panthers
Published: Mar 02, 2023
Updated: Mar 03, 2023
The direction that the Carolina Panthers inevitably go in will rest entirely on what they do at quarterback. If they bring in a veteran like Derek Carr or Aaron Rodgers, they need to go after weapons to surround them with immediately. If they go with Matt Corral/Sam Darnold or draft a QB, they should probably focus on building the team for the long haul and lay off the luxury pieces - unless Frank Reich and company truly believe a guy like CJ Stroud or Bryce Young can come in and win right away. It should be an interesting off-season in Charlotte regardless.
With this series, we are taking a look at each NFL team to gauge the direction of the offense from a dynasty fantasy football perspective. Is this team gearing up for a Super Bowl run? Are they in the midst of a rebuild? Are they considering blowing it up? We’ll take all of that into account as well as the current contracts, upcoming free agents, and 2023 NFL draft class to give you our best recommendations on how to handle these weapons in your dynasty fantasy football leagues.
BUY - Attempt to acquire this player at or slightly above market value
HOLD - The player is likely more valuable than the market indicates. Hold them if you have them or try to acquire them at a discount.
SELL - The perceived value for this player is higher than the projected remaining value in your average dynasty league. Cash out now.
SELL/DROP - Depending on the depth of the league, always try to sell guys before dropping. But this player is likely not worth the bench spot he’s occupying so you might need to just drop them.
*Contract information is proved courtesy of Spotrac.com*
2023 Carolina Panthers Dynasty Fantasy Football Outlook
Carolina Panthers Quarterback
The Panthers have one quarterback under contract for 2023 and one signed to a reserve/futures deal.
Matt Corral - age 24
Contract: Corral was drafted in 2022 so he’s under contract through 2025.
Outlook: Corral missed his entire rookie season after having Lisfranc surgery and there are reports that he might not be ready for OTAs.
Dynasty Recommendation: HOLD - There is zero market for Corral right now so you might as well hold in superflex or two-QB leagues just to see how this QB battle shakes out. In single QB leagues, it really depends how deep your benches are but he does not need to be held. Even if he’s the only guy currently on the roster, there will be some form of competition.
FREE AGENTS: PJ Walker, Sam Darnold
RESERVE/FUTURES: Jacob Eason
Free Agency/Draft Outlook:
The last thing Matt Corral needs is to not even be ready to go when the QB competition starts. And we know there will be some kind of competition. There have been discussions to bring back Sam Darnold, new head coach Frank Reich has been pretty forthcoming on his respect for Derek Carr, and he’s also mentioned that they could draft a QB. Obviously battling with Darnold or a rookie would be better than a veteran like Carr or Rodgers but it’s looking like an uphill battle regardless for Corral.
Carolina Panthers Running Backs
The Panthers have two running backs under contract and one signed to a reserves/future deal.
Chuba Hubbard - age 24
Contract: Chuba Hubbard is under contract through 2024
Outlook: You’d think Chuba Hubbard would never start after being drafted behind Christian McCaffrey but, with injuries and the trade, he’s actually started twelve games. The big indictment however was that D’Onta Foreman strolled into town and essentially got the starting nod over him last year.
Dynasty Recommendation: SELL - There are three kinds of backups that we are interested in. There is the complete unknown who has yet to get the chance at all (Larry Johnson for the Chiefs was this kind of player). There is the guy that comes off the bench when the starter gets hurt and flashes (Alexander Mattison). Then there is the guy that carves out a role but we want to see more (Tony Pollard). Chuba Hubbard does not fit one of these. He didn’t carve out much of a role when the starter was healthy and he didn’t look particularly good in any of his chances when the starter was hurt. You have to try to sell while he’s technically at the top of this depth chart.
Raheem Blackshear - age 23
Contract: Blackshear was called up from the practice squad meaning he’s technically under contract for this year and can be kept via the exclusive rights free agent tag in 2024 for the veteran minimum.
Outlook: If you are plugged into the deep corners of dynasty Twitter you have heard this name kicked around as a possible pass-down back but his path to making the roster is likely by returning punts and kicks if Andre Roberts doesn’t return.
Dynasty Recommendation: SELL/DROP - In very deep leagues or leagues with big bonuses for return yards he might be worth holding at least through free agency but in most leagues he doesn’t need to be held.
FREE AGENTS: D’Onta Foreman
RESERVE/FUTURE: Spencer Brown
Free Agency/Draft Outlook:
The Panthers need depth at RB but that doesn’t mean they should spend up at the position in free agency or the draft. They aren’t ready to compete now and it’s arguably the shortest shelf-life position in the league. But teams don’t always think about things the way we do and I truly believe that is a mistake. The former Lions regime drafted D’Andre Swift and now they are going to have to pay him before they are even ready to compete for a title. Look at the Steelers with Najee Harris - is that working? Saquon Barkley. It’s one thing if they do get Derek Carr or Aaron Rodgers but, otherwise, running back should be the last position you add as part of your rebuild. But the Panthers will probably draft a running back anyway. Because that’s what teams do.
Carolina Panthers Wide Receivers
The Panthers have five wide receivers under contract for 2023 with two signed to reserve/future deals.
DJ Moore - age 25
Contract: DJ Moore is under contract through 2025.
Outlook: DJ Moore is seen as the quintessential “good receiver with a bad QB”. His season-ending stats often paint a more rosy picture than what his week-to-week production looks like in fantasy football but the general consensus is that we’ve yet to see his ceiling.
Dynasty Recommendation: BUY - He’s a more difficult buy than he should be because everyone knows the narrative surrounding him. But, at age 25, he’s just now entering the wide receiver age apex so we’re looking to buy him at or above market value if possible. The change in coaching staff alone should be a plus and the team has to actively pursue quarterbacks. We’ve seen the floor and that’s already a guy who is in your lineup every single week so the odds of you having buyer’s remorse are pretty low.
Terrace Marshall - age 22
Contract: Marshall is under contract through 2024.
Outlook: Terrace Marshall was the odd man out at LSU playing alongside Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase but virtually every wide receiver would be. Those guys are megastars. That said, he’s yet to quite catch on in the NFL despite having a number of games with high snap counts to show us something.
Dynasty Recommendation: HOLD - Despite being in the league for a short period of time, the Terrace Marshall story is a complex one. Matt Rhule hired LSU head coach Joe Brady as his offensive coordinator. Joe Brady then brought in Terrace Marshall who played for him at LSU, which had us excited for Marshall. Joe Brady was then fired before the first season even ended. Now Matt Rhule has been fired (and Joe Brady is with the Bills) so we have to wonder if maybe it should have been Rhule that was fired in year one with Brady staying on board. That alone has us hopeful that maybe Marshall can recover from this setback. He’s worth holding but doesn’t overpay for him because the addition of a high-level wide receiver or tight end could essentially vaporize Marshall’s path to targets fairly quickly. Marshall needs to be a top-two target on the team and he needs them to get a real quarterback.
Laviska Shenault - age 24
Contract: The Panthers traded for Laviska Shenault so they have no guaranteed money tied to him. He can be released this year for $1.6 million in savings with zero dead cap. He is a free agent in 2024.
Outlook: As a prospect, the physical Shenault drew comparisons to guys like Deebo Samuel but that never materialized with the Jaguars. The Panthers decided to give him a fresh start where he will compete in the slot.
Dynasty Recommendation: SELL/DROP - We’re often torn on players in this situation. On one hand, his being released would allow him to find a team that might give him a better shot to be an every-down player. On the other hand, that would suggest he’s not even good enough to compete with Shi Smith in the slot. Either way, it’s an uphill battle so I’d see if anyone out there still believes in him and cash out for anything.
Shi Smith - age 24
Contract: Smith is under contract through 2024. He can be released for around $900K in savings and only $80K in dead cap.
Outlook: In two years now Smith has only totaled 400 yards. It’s starting to look kind of bleak.
Dynasty Recommendation: SELL/DROP - The question with slot guys is not “can they get on the field”. It’s can they STAY on the field. Teams like using second tight ends. They like using fullbacks. They like two back sets. Someone has to come out of the game on those occasions. It’s not going to be DJ Moore. So there’s essentially one spot opposite of Moore for a full-time flanker or split end and as of now, that is Terrace Marshall. Shi Smith profiles as a pure slot WR who is likely to play in 3 WR sets but come out for 2 WR sets and that just doesn’t give him enough upside. In 2022 he played 358 snaps in the slot and only 123 out wide. And he might not even win the slot WR job at all.
Preston Williams - age 25
Contract: Williams can be released with $1 mil in savings with no cap hit.
Outlook: Preston Williams flashed briefly on the Dolphins which is incredibly rare for undrafted free agents. But, as the rebuild began, they quickly brought in high-level pass catchers like Jaylen Waddle and Tyreek Hill which vaporized his value.
Dynasty Recommendation: SELL/DROP - Honestly, I have no sympathy for those that held onto Preston Williams too long as I warned folks time and time again to cash out while he had any value at all. When are we going to learn not to get fooled by these guys who get a bunch of empty targets on tanking teams?
RESERVE/FUTURE: CJ Saunders, Derek Wright
FREE AGENTS: Andre Roberts, Rashad Higgins
Free Agency/Draft Outlook:
Honestly, the only two players who are safe here are DJ Moore and Terrace Marshall. One of Laviska Shenault or Shi Smith will win the slot job and the other should be cut. Preston Williams does not need to be held onto. And, even with that in mind, I don’t think this team should spend up on WRs in the draft or free agency unless they get Derek Carr. They need to focus on the long-term cornerstone positions of this team first before loading up on weapons - quarterback, offensive line, defensive line. Positions that you can draft and bank on to be there for a decade. Look at how the Dolphins and Lions did things. Build it from the inside out and then go after the luxury pieces when it’s time to compete. They should just bring in some depth guys and see if anyone sticks. Then start the clock on a valuable rookie WR contract window later.
Carolina Panthers Tight Ends
The Panthers have two tight ends under contract and one signed to a reserve/future contract.
Ian Thomas - age 26
Contract: Ian Thomas is under contract through 2024. He can be cut with $3.3 mil in dead cap for $3.3 mil in savings.
Outlook: Ian Thomas has somehow managed to be both of the guys we don’t like in fantasy football. He’s been the “all exercise team” tight end in 2020 when he was top 10 in routes run but finished as TE55. And he’s been the guy who blocks way too much, blocking on 21% and 23% of his pass plays the last two seasons.
Dynasty Recommendation: SELL/DROP - They gave him a second contract for some reason but now he’s looking like a potential cut candidate. You don’t have to hold him in dynasty.
Tommy Tremble - age 22
Contract: Tommy Tremble is under contract through 2024
Outlook: Tremble did get better usage, blocking on only 3.6% of his pass plays. But he didn’t play a full-time snap share so he wasn’t fantasy relevant at any point.
Dynasty Recommendation: SELL/DROP - Just because we don’t like Ian Thomas doesn’t mean we need to like Tommy Tremble. He’s made a couple of plays that get Twitter riled up at times but he profiles as more of a hybrid fullback than he does a guy who is going to consistently get downfield running real routes. He’s essentially a lesser version of Jonnu Smith and even Jonnu Smith hasn’t lived up to the hype. You don’t need to roster him either unless it’s a really deep format.
Reserve/Futures: Stephen Sullivan
Free Agency/Draft Outlook:
They could just keep what they have, especially if they keep Stephen Sullivan around as well. But Ian Thomas is looking like a potential cut candidate so maybe they bring someone in. A big part of who they bring in will boil down to the quarterback. If they decide to draft a young QB to develop, it doesn’t make sense to pay up for a veteran now.
Follow Andrew Cooper on Twitter @CoopAFiasco for more NFL and fantasy football insights and stay tuned as we hit on all 32 NFL teams in this series leading into NFL free agency!
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