Carolina Panthers: 4 missed opportunities this offseason
Carolina Panthers No. 2: Not making a bid for Austin Hooper
The Carolina Panthers decided to move on from prolific tight end Greg Olsen this offseason. This enabled the player to finish his career with a more realistic chance of attaining a Super Bowl. And it remains to be seen whether Ian Thomas can step in and fill the void.
Olsen was a consistent performer for the Panthers during a glittering spell with the franchise. Thomas has plenty of likable traits to call upon during a critical campaign for the player. But he will need to become more consistent to make a real go of things from a starting position.
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If things do not pan out as expected with the former Indiana standout, then it puts their decision to not bring in a prominent replacement during free agency under the microscope. One avenue they could have gone down was to make an offer to Austin Hooper, who emerged as one of the NFL’s best pass-catching options at the position during his time with the Panthers’ NFC South rival Atlanta Falcons.
Hooper is coming off a season where he secured 75 receptions from 93 targets on his way to 787 receiving yards and six touchdowns. This resulted in the Cleveland Browns giving the former Stanford product a four-year, $42 million deal with a $10 million signing bonus and $23 million guaranteed.
This might have been out of Carolina’s price range due to their salary cap predicament. But the organization moved money around when necessary to put together a competitive roster next season.
It is hard to argue that Hooper is not a significant upgrade on Thomas. But that could change if the third-year pro takes a giant leap forward in 2020.