AFC South team linked with trade for Carolina Panthers RB Miles Sanders

The veteran running back faces an uncertain future with the Carolina Panthers.
Miles Sanders
Miles Sanders / Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

There's been no standing still for the Carolina Panthers this offseason. This was expected and necessary after the franchise endured a constant stream of woeful performances during a two-win campaign in 2023.

Increasing competition for places was a key component of the Panthers' new ethos under Dan Morgan and Dave Canales. Nobody was seemingly safe from demotion or the axe entirely aside from a few cornerstone pieces. This can hopefully raise performance levels throughout the summer to hit the ground running in Week 1 at the New Orleans Saints.

This was also evident in Carolina's running back dynamic. The group received a mini-makeover after the Panthers traded up to No. 46 overall in the 2024 NFL Draft for Jonathon Brooks. They also acquired Rashaad Penny once the college selection process concluded, who has a previous connection to Canales and brings a level of physicality others don't.

Carolina Panthers could trade Miles Sanders this offseason

What this means for Miles Sanders' future has yet to be determined. The veteran underwhelmed during his first season in Carolina, but Canales and Morgan seem confident in his ability to bounce back and secure a prominent role for himself in 2024.

Alex Ballentine from The Bleacher Report had other ideas. The writer believed that Sanders could potentially be traded at some stage during the summer. He named the Indianapolis Colts as a potential landing spot for the player, which landed the Panthers a 2025 sixth-round selection as a result of this hypothetical transaction.

"Miles Sanders was one of the highest-paid running backs in free agency last season, but it wasn't a move that made a lot of difference for the Carolina Panthers. Indianapolis would be the optimal landing spot for a Sanders resurgence. His best season came with the Eagles when Shane Steichen served as offensive coordinator. He had 1,347 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2022 before Steichen left to take the Indianapolis Colts head coach. The Colts have Jonathan Taylor, but he has struggled to stay healthy over the last two seasons. He has played 21 games over the last two seasons and has yet to recapture the form that saw him compile over 2,000 yards from scrimmage and 20 touchdowns in 2021."

Alex Ballentine, Bleacher Report

Much will depend on how Brooks' rehabilitation from a torn ACL goes. The Panthers might opt to keep Sanders around as an insurance policy until the former Texas star is 100 percent healthy. But considering the presence of Chuba Hubbard and Penny, removing the former second-round pick couldn't be completely dismissed if a suitable offer comes along.

Sanders is focusing on what he can control. He's turning the page on a subpar 2023 season and looking to become a big part of Canales' offense. The talent is there - he's proven that already throughout a productive playing career. Getting back to the form of old is crucial in pursuit of extended involvement once again.

Had Brooks been fully healthy, this is a different story. Hubbard displayed notable improvement once again last time around, so Sanders would have been No. 3 on the depth chart if the rookie got a clean bill of health. That's not the case, so the Panthers don't want to be short of options and deploy the newly acquired backfield threat before he's fully ready.

Whether it's with the Panthers or elsewhere, Sanders is facing a make-or-break campaign.

Any further failings wouldn't bode well for his chances of landing somewhere in 2025. After all, we all know how expendable veteran running backs are if they're believed to have fallen off the proverbial cliff performance-wise.