Will Carolina Panthers' low-cost gamble on Diontae Johnson pay off?

There is some baggage attached...

Diontae Johnson
Diontae Johnson / Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports
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Will the Carolina Panthers' low-cost gamble on wide receiver Diontae Johnson pay off for the organization in 2024?

The Carolina Panthers have placed a significant amount of faith in Diontae Johnson. Instead of going after a marquee free-agent wide receiver - although there's still time for that with Mike Williams' meeting upcoming - those in power decided to take a calculated risk by acquiring the former third-round pick via trade from the Pittsburgh Steelers. Much more is required in pursuit of placing better weapons around quarterback Bryce Young, but this is a good place to start.

Johnson's ability to create separation should be a tremendous asset to call upon. This also didn't cost the Panthers much in terms of compensation. If it doesn't work out, they can move on swiftly without fear of any long-term implications.

Carolina Panthers must manage Diontae Johnson's personality

Hopes are high that Johnson can galvanize his career in Carolina and help Young attain new heights as an NFL sophomore. However, the red flags outlined by Joe Person of The Athletic are worth monitoring, at the very least.

"[Dan] Morgan was able to not only move [Donte] Jackson but get a young, explosive receiver in return made it a big win for the first-time GM. [Diontae] Johnson is a master of sudden moves on the field, able to separate from coverage because of his ability to quickly get in and out of his breaks. But he’s also volatile off the field, with a history in Pittsburgh of sulking when he didn’t get the ball and fighting with teammates, including his quarterback. But the Panthers’ need to upgrade their receiving corps was such that they were willing to live with Johnson’s warts in what amounts to a one-year, prove-it deal."

Joe Person, The Athletic

Wide receivers are notorious for being the NFL's divas more often than not. This has been the case throughout league history and Johnson is no different. If things aren't going his way, the Toledo college product won't be shy in letting his feelings become known to coaches and teammates alike.

Fortunately for Johnson, the isn't much competition for targets in Carolina's wide receiver room currently, although that should change as the offseason progresses. Adam Thielen was the only player capable of getting open consistently, so anything would be an upgrade based on how things unfolded during the previous campaign.

Johnson is a fiery competitor the likes of which Carolina hasn't had at wideout since Steve Smith Sr. was around. There's also a reason why the Steelers were so eager to remove him from the equation. The last thing Dave Canales needs is a locker room complication during his first season as head coach, so he must mesh these different personalities together to hit the ground running.

This is a low-risk, high-reward gamble by the Panthers. It could blow up in their face - especially if Johnson isn't happy with his usage. Hopefully, some other options can be acquired throughout free agency and the 2024 NFL Draft to avoid becoming over-reliant on any one pass-catcher. That's what happened last season with Thielen. It cannot happen again.

Johnson has the talent to become a big-time factor in Carolina's offensive game plan. He's also got plenty of incentive to put together an improved campaign with his contract up for renewal next spring. And who knows, perhaps a change of scenery could be exactly what the dynamic receiver needs at this stage of his career.

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