3 pleasant surprises from the Carolina Panthers 2023 season

It wasn't all bad for the Carolina Panthers in 2023.

Xavier Woods
Xavier Woods / Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
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Carolina Panthers WR Adam Thielen's milestone

Adam Thielen's decision to spurn the advances of contenders and sign for the Carolina Panthers in free agency represented a major coup for the organization. While the Pro Bowler was advancing in age, expectations were he'd become a sound security blanket in the slot for rookie quarterback Bryce Young during his crucial transition from college to the pros.

Thanks to the inept performance levels of others, Thielen was tasked with much more. At 33 years old, he became the Panthers' undisputed No. 1 receiving option. He was Young's go-to target. The only wide receiver capable of creating separation and providing the assured hands needed to move the chains.

There's just no telling how bad Young's first year would have looked without Thielen. He was the one shining light in a passing attack littered with underachievers. He made the odd mistake, but his overall contribution was far greater than anyone associated with the Panthers envisaged en route to his first 1,000-yard receiving campaign since 2018.

It seems as if Thielen's time with the Panthers will be short-lived, unfortunately. The veteran got sold down the river by Frank Reich and others with their delusional outlook. When speaking to the media on Monday, the former undrafted free agent hinted that a move away might be the best possible solution at this stage of his career.

After a rags-to-riches career, ending with a legitimate contender for a Super Bowl is the least Thielen deserves.