4 high-risk free agents the Carolina Panthers could target in 2023

(Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports) Irv Smith Jr.
(Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports) Irv Smith Jr. /
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Carolina Panthers
(Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports) Irv Smith Jr. /

Carolina Panthers could sign Irv Smith Jr.

Finding a productive pass-catcher at the tight end position is a top priority for the Carolina Panthers this off-season. While there’s a chance that Ian Thomas and Tommy Tremble can increase their respective contributions within Frank Reich’s scheme, there’s just no telling for sure despite their exceptional blocking prowess.

There are a number of intriguing options available via the 2023 NFL Draft that shouldn’t be overlooked. If the Panthers want someone that can perhaps attain immediate performance enhancement, then exploring which free agents fit the mold is another avenue of possibility.

Even though the risks are there for all to see, Irv Smith Jr. brings more upside than most. The former second-round pick looked like the next great pass-catching tight end over the early stages of his career, but injury problems have thrown the player’s long-term aspirations into significant doubt.

The Minnesota Vikings acquired T.J. Hockenson via trade last year, which should leave Smith surplus to requirements. Even though health complications might emerge again, there could be a strong market for the Alabama product given his athleticism, length, and ability to become a true red-zone threat.

This represents an immediate upgrade for the Panthers. One that can provide their new franchise quarterback with a comfort blanket if Smith’s injury problems are a thing of the past.