Carolina Panthers have one ace to play in potential Mike Evans pursuit

Could this tip the scales in Carolina's favor?

Mike Evans
Mike Evans / Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Evans was named as an ideal fit for the Carolina Panthers. They also have one ace to play in their potential quest to land the wide receiver.

Few would argue what the Carolina Panthers' biggest priority is throughout the offseason. They have to improve the firepower around Bryce Young. After making such a huge investment in the quarterback and seeing him flounder during a torrid rookie season, anything less would be nothing short of disgraceful.

It's also time for the Panthers to think bigger as part of their long-term plans for the future. Acquiring reclamation projects and developing draft prospects with athletic upside will no longer cut it. They must find immediate contributors to begin forming the building blocks for a successful future.

This starts at the wide receiver position. Only second-round pick Jonathan Mingo should be guaranteed a roster spot next season. Adam Thielen is under contract but has obvious ambitions to join a contender. Ihmir Smith-Marsette should be retained after finishing the campaign strongly. Aside from that, it seems like everyone else can be moved on with little fanfare attached.

Mike Evans will be one of the most coveted names on the market. Contract talks with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are ongoing, but there is a growing belief in league circles that the future Pro Football Hall of Famer will also test the market to see if somewhere else is more intriguing.

Carolina Panthers must bank on Mike Evans' relationship with Dave Canales

According to ESPN staff writer Matt Bowen, Evans' previous connection to new Panthers head coach Dave Canales makes him the perfect fit for Carolina. Something that would also provide Young with a legitimate No. 1 option in the passing game as he looks to bounce back during his sophomore campaign.

"[Mike] Evans could follow Panthers coach Dave Canales to Carolina after he had 1,255 receiving yards and a league-leading 13 touchdown catches in the same offensive system last season in Tampa Bay. Evans is still playing at an extremely high level, and he'd be an immediate (and needed) upgrade for Panthers quarterback Bryce Young as a multiple-level target with red zone upside."

Matt Bowen, ESPN

Canales and Evans hit it off last season with the Buccaneers. The wideout spoke highly about his play-caller as he was about to embark on a fresh challenge. If he gets the chance to speak with other teams, the Panthers should be among the first to inquire.

Much has been made about Evans' contract demands and how that could complicate matters for the cash-strapped Panthers. Brandt Tilis was brought in to change all that. There are ways to manipulate the cap - something the previous regime didn't accomplish effectively enough compared to other successful operations around the league.

If they want Evans, make it work by any means necessary. After so much abject failure under David Tepper's ownership, the time for half-measures and penny-pinching is over.

This is a blue-chip player that would instantly legitimize the Panthers' plans under Canales. Evans has gone over 1,000 receiving yards every year he's been in the league. He's a difference-maker at all three levels of the field. Although the former Texas A&M standout is approaching the twilight of his career, he's shown no signs of slowing down yet.

The Panthers will not be alone in coveting Evans if he hits the open market. A plethora of teams will attempt to secure his services. Most will have a better chance of challenging for honors.

Therefore, this is almost entirely dependent on his relationship with Canales. If he truly believes in the coach's ability to turn the Panthers around quickly, don't count Carolina out of the Evans sweepstakes.