The biggest free-agent swing Carolina Panthers could take at WR in 2024

This would help Bryce Young tremendously...

Calvin Ridley
Calvin Ridley / Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union / USA

What could be the biggest free-agent swing the Carolina Panthers can make in pursuit of improving their wide receiver options in 2024?

Bryce Young needs help. The quarterback endured a rollercoaster rookie season with very few positives attached after being taken No. 1 overall in the 2023 NFL Draft. If the Carolina Panthers want to maximize their substantial investment in the signal-caller, they must put better pieces around him as a matter of extreme urgency.

It seems as if the Panthers are going to identify some immediate upgrades to the offensive line interior during free agency according to reports. They also need to provide Young with more prolific options in the passing game. Ones that are capable of making things happen and creating separation consistently.

The wide receiver free-agent market looked loaded once upon a time. That's not the case anymore thanks to new deals and franchise tags. Carolina isn't exactly flush with spare financial resources after placing the non-exclusive franchise tag on stud edge rusher Brian Burns. Further roster sacrifices are almost guaranteed, but it does nothing to detract from the definitive need to spend wisely this offseason.

Carolina Panthers could swing big with Calvin Ridley

That said, it's clear what the Panthers' biggest swing would be in free agency. Whether it's something those in power can pull off is another matter.

Calvin Ridley has surged into the No. 1 free-agent wide receiver, one that should command significant interest on the market. The Jacksonville Jaguars are expected to let him seek alternative offers after using their franchise tag on pass-rusher Josh Allen. An extension would also result in coughing up a second-round selection to the Atlanta Falcons as part of their previously agreed trade stipulations.

Ridley flashed elite-level qualities last season, but he was a little rusty after missing the 2022 campaign through suspension after violating the league's gambling policy. We should see more from the former Alabama star next time around. Something that won't go unnoticed by teams looking for wideout help.

Before Ridley's enforced time away from the gridiron, he looked like a star. His route-running is crisp and there is fluidity to his movements in and out of cuts. This is matched by elite-level ball skills and a knack for coming up big in key moments.

It seems like a pipe dream, in all honesty. But there is just no telling what a player like Ridley could do for Young's ability to bounce back as an NFL sophomore. However, getting into a bidding war in the team's current financial state doesn't seem sensible.

There's also the not-so-small matter of Carolina's perception around the league. This once-proud franchise has descended to rock bottom and complete embarrassment under team owner David Tepper. If Ridley has other options - which is almost guaranteed - the chances of him choosing the Panthers are remote.

Landing a big-name free agent would make people around the league sit up and take notice, which might be half the battle after how things were managed under previous regimes. Unfortunately for the Panthers and its long-suffering fanbase, the early signs point to an offseason of damage control and removing previous mistakes. The short-term cost will be steep, but it should improve the long-term prospects if things are done right at long last.

Trying to land Ridley won't hurt. Just don't get your hopes up.