Royce Freeman offers the Carolina Panthers something different at RB

(Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports) Royce Freeman
(Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports) Royce Freeman /

Royce Freeman could offer the Carolina Panthers something different at running back after he was claimed by the team off waivers this week.

The Carolina Panthers picked up another eye-catching veteran off the waiver wire on Thursday in the form of Royce Freeman, who was cut by the Denver Broncos after making their initial 53-man roster.

This was an area that needed quality reinforcement after those in power decided to go with Chuba Hubbard and Trenton Cannon behind Christian McCaffrey, with Spencer Brown and Rodney Smith both making it onto the practice squad after flashing during the preseason.

Acquiring Freeman is a win-win for all parties.

It gives the player an instant opportunity to stake his claim elsewhere. Carolina also gets someone with proven production from a rotational role that could assist when called upon.

Freeman was a third-round pick out of Oregon and certainly looked like someone who could emerge as a top running back on occasions. He rushed for 1,017 yards and eight touchdowns over his first two seasons, but he found opportunities limited last season behind Melvin Gordon and Phillip Lindsay.

Denver drafting Javonte Williams out of North Carolina was the final nail in Freeman’s coffin. Although it’s a little too soon to be writing off the player just yet.

This could be a shrewd bit of business by the Panthers if Freeman returns to the form of old. But if he’s expecting to walk in and generate some meaningful touches, he’ll be out of luck.

Royce Freeman needs to fit in quickly on the Carolina Panthers.

McCaffrey is back and set to light up the league once again after appearing just three times in 2020. Hubbard has also shown some real promise throughout the preseason after Carolina gave the rookie all he could handle in terms of carries over the three games.

Roster building this offseason has been an aggressive business for the Panthers. So if Freeman doesn’t fit in quickly and show he can contribute, then he’ll be stashed at the bottom of the depth chart or even released entirely.

However, he does offer something Carolina doesn’t have currently. A backup with experience that provides patience out of the backfield and a supreme red-zone threat.

As is the case with most veterans at this time of year, this is a low-risk, high reward move from the Panthers and something that instantly solves their depth concerns at the position.

Losing McCaffrey for a prolonged period of time again would be nothing short of a disaster. But if the worst was to happen, Carolina now has two backs who could shoulder the load in this eventuality.

A running back’s shelf-life is often short in the NFL.

There are always plenty of incoming college players with a ton of talent coming into the league, who represent far cheaper alternatives than those with professional experience that might be past the peak of their powers.

Freeman is only entering his fourth season. Considering he generated just 35 carries last season, there should be plenty of juice left in the tank.

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There might be a few more twists and turns to come in the not-too-distant future before Carolina’s roster is finalized ahead of their Week 1 matchup against the New York Jets. Freeman has more upside than most, but whether he can force his way into the team’s plans is highly questionable considering the presence of McCaffrey and Hubbard.