July 29, 2011; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. (19) during training camp at the San Francisco 49ers headquarters and training facility. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

San Francisco Receiver Ted Ginn, Jr. Agrees to 1-year Contract with the Carolina Panthers

As I mentioned in the article about the re-signing of Captain Munnerlyn earlier today, the Carolina Panthers had been courting San Francisco WR and kick returner Ted Ginn, Jr. with a 3-year contract.

The two sides couldn’t come to terms on a 3-year deal but got together on a 1-year contract.

It’s official: Ted Ginn, Jr. is now a Carolina Panther.

This addition gives the Panthers a big boost in team speed in a couple of different areas.

First of all, a little background. Ginn was a top-ten pick out of Ohio State that the Miami Dolphins took in the 2007 draft in hopes of pairing him with their second-round pick, former BYU QB Josh Beck. Neither player worked out to expectations, but Ginn did shine in the kick return game. He has 6 career TDs on returns – 3 kickoffs and 3 punts – and remains a dangerous threat there.

That appears to be bad news for rising second-year Arkansas product WR/KR Joe Adams, who got in Rivera’s doghouse last season in week 3 with a pair of fumbles against the New York Giants. If there’s one thing I’ve noticed about NFL head coaches, it’s that they have kick and punt returners on a VERY short leash when it comes to fumbling the ball – especially young players.

First-round pick David Wilson, a RB/KR for the New York Giants oddly enough fell out of favor just as quickly with his coach, Tom Coughlin, early last season for similar reasons.

Wilson recovered somewhat late in the season, but Adams did not, and Ron Rivera and GM David Gettleman apparently think that Ginn’s an upgrade at the KR position for sure, and I tend to agree. He has a good track record there so far but it’s his receiving skills that haven’t quite developed to the point a #9 overall pick should be at going into his 7th NFL campaign and now on his 3rd squad.

Rivera hinted that Ginn wants to get back on the field more and have a chance at catching some passes and it appears he’ll get that chance, probably in a reserve role or in long-yardage situations to begin with as he learns the Carolina offense and hopefully for his sake shows better than the average hands he’s had in the NFL.

One thing he does give the offense, probably in sub-packages to begin with, is blazing straight-line speed. He’s not a great route-runner and doesn’t have quite the explosiveness it was thought he had in college, but once he gets behind a defense with a head of steam, he’s nearly impossible to run down from behind.

July 30, 2011; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. (19) during training camp at the Marie P. DeBartolo Centre. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

As for receiving, he did his best work in his earlier years in South Florida where he appeared in every game in his 3 seasons there. His best season was his 2nd year in the league when he had 56 receptions, 790 yards, and 2 TDs. Interestingly enough, he also had 2 rushing TDs on ONLY FIVE ATTEMPTS, with a 14.6 yds/carry on the ground, eclipsing his yds/catch average of 14.1 that year. That’s some trick for sure, and while I don’t see Carolina employing him as a 5th run option very often, it shows the breadth of ability he has.

It really is exciting news for the Panthers offense and return game since opponents won’t really know how to handle him until they understand what his role is going to be in Carolina’s offense. From what little I’ve heard so far, Rivera plans to put him through his paces, challenge him at every turn, and attempt to bring out the best in the guy and let his play on the field dictate where he’ll best be utilized.

If he’s put opposite Steve Smith at times, it could give the Panthers that deep threat that they’ve really lacked as Steve Smith has begun to slow down a bit.

It looks to be another David Gettleman “Blue-light special” – a talented underachiever coming in at a bargain price, given the raw, untapped talent that’s in there.

As for returning kicks, Ginn single-handedly destroyed the New York Jets in 2009 after being angry for being benched and relegated strictly to KR duties. He responded by putting up 201 yards and 2 TDs on 2 kickoff returns and was the difference in that game. It was the first time in the NFL in 42 years where a kick returner had 2 TDs….in the same quarter.

Ginn is going to be a fellow you are really going to want to watch up until opening day to see what role he winds up in. All said, it’s a great low-cost option with some upside for Gettleman. It seems to be a theme with him, and all it takes is one “surprise” free agent to start making plays for the investment in all of them to be worth it when you’re on a tight budget.

Ted Ginn, Jr. has all the talent to be that guy, but it remains to be seen if he can put it together on the field once the regular season begins.

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