What are the Carolina Panthers getting in C.J. Saunders?

Dean Jones
(Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports) C.J. Saunders
(Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports) C.J. Saunders /

What are the Carolina Panthers getting from their new wide receiver C.J. Saunders, who was officially signed on Tuesday?

Another wide receiver? Why not.

The Carolina Panthers confirmed the signing of C.J. Saunders ahead of a crucial training camp for the organization, with the team opting to waive Tommy Stevens to make room for their recent acquisition.

Stevens was tipped to play a role similar to what Taysom Hill adopts with the New Orleans Saints, but the Panthers have obviously decided against having the player as part of their plans moving forward.

To say the Panthers are deep at wide receiver would be something of an understatement.

They have an embarrassment of riches to call upon despite Curtis Samuel leaving for the Washington Football Team in free agency, with David Moore, Terrace Marshall Jr., and Shi Smith boosting their options considerably this spring.

C.J. Saunders has his work cut out with the Carolina Panthers.

Where Saunders fits in is unclear. The former Ohio State standout was named a team captain in 2019 before injury forced him to miss the entire season.

The NCAA denied his petition for a sixth year of eligibility shortly prior to the Buckeyes’ preseason training program, which was a bitter blow and one the player is still trying to recover from.

He went undrafted in 2020 and recently took part in rookie minicamp with the Atlanta Falcons before the Panthers decided to give him a shot.

Saunders transitioned from cornerback to a wide receiver in college, which is the versatility Carolina loves in all their new recruits. The player did show some nice touches catching balls from Justin Fields at the quarterback’s pro day, which the Panthers’ brass was in full attendance for before eventually deciding to go with Jaycee Horn at No. 8 overall.

This is the second example of Carolina putting their pro-day visits to good use. The team signed Micah Simon after he displayed some eye-catching athletic traits at BYU’s showcase, which included a blazing 40-yard dash time with Fitterer at the finish line.

The competition for places is going to be fierce at camp. This increased sense of urgency coupled with Matt Rhule’s intense practices could be just what the doctor ordered ahead of a pivotal Year 2 under his leadership.

It’s doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that Saunders has his work cut out even making the practice squad, never mind the 53-man roster. However, if he gets the chance to participate in a more structured camp and even generates some time on the field during the preseason, it will assist his overall development considerably.

There is no harm in taking a look.

That is what this time of year is for.

Maybe having a team believe in him the same way his coaches did at Ohio State could make all the difference.

There’s nothing flashy about Saunders. But if he gets his head down, works hard, and makes an impression when it counts then it’s going to do his chances of forging a career in the big leagues the world of good.

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It might not come this season, or at all. What comes next will be down to Saunders and whether he can make the most out of the biggest NFL opportunity he’s received to date.