4 free-agent returners the Carolina Panthers could sign in 2021

(Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports) Byron Pringle
(Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports) Byron Pringle /
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Carolina Panthers
(Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports) Pharoh Cooper /

Which free-agent kick returners could the Carolina Panthers sign in 2021 free agency as a replacement for Pharoh Cooper?

The Carolina Panthers are bracing themselves for an extremely busy period in the coming weeks as free agency fever grips the NFL once again. What comes next this spring is going to have some significant ramifications on the short and long-term aspirations of the franchise, which began Matt Rhule’s tenure with some encouraging signs despite finishing the 2020 season with a 5-11 record.

New general manager Scott Fitterer wasted no time in cutting ties with several established veterans to free-up some additional financial resources to utilize. They have the seventh-most cap space in the league currently, although that will count for nothing if the Panthers cannot bring the right sort of recruits to the organization.

Carolina Panthers shouldn’t bring Pharoh Cooper back.

One area where they might be looking for a change is with their kick returner. Pharoh Cooper was solid if not spectacular after arriving from the Arizona Cardinals last year and considering how much of a non-factor he was in the passing game, it might be best for both parties to go their separate ways.

Getting solid production in the return game remains a crucial part of a successful NFL team. It might be a dying breed due to safety implications, but one only has to look at playoff teams last time out to see just how this can still be a factor in an ever-changing climate.

If the Panthers don’t bring Cooper back, as expected. Here are four strong candidates who can step in and fill the void.

Returner No. 1

Carolina Panthers
(Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports) Tyler Ervin /

Tyler Ervin

  • 2020 team – Green Bay Packers

Although Tyler Ervin hasn’t had much in the way of game-day activity as a running back throughout his NFL career, the former fourth-round pick might be a solid option to have if the Carolina Panthers want to bring in another kick returner this offseason.

Ervin isn’t the biggest name on the free-agent market, which will make him a cheap option that is unlikely to cost anything significant from a contractual perspective. This makes a lot of sense in the current financial climate across the league and there is a lot to like about his ability to make an instant impression.

The San Jose State product has generated 611 yards on 72 punt returns throughout his career. Ervin’s impressive kickoff return ability resulted in 876 yards from 40 returns, and there might even be a chance for the player to contribute out of the backfield if Mike Davis leaves in free agency.