Carolina Panthers trade speculation reignites after Stefon Diggs switch

The speculation has returned...
Tee Higgins
Tee Higgins / Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY

Stefon Diggs' trade to the Houston Texans reignited speculation linking the Carolina Panthers with wide receiver Tee Higgins.

Stefon Diggs being traded to the Houston Texans sent another shockwave across the NFL during one of the most dramatic offseasons in recent memory. The Buffalo Bills cut their losses after becoming increasingly frustrated with his petulant behavior, looking towards the outstanding crop of wide receivers in the 2024 NFL Draft for a long-term, cheaper replacement.

For the Carolina Panthers, this is also an avenue they're likely to pursue early in the process. Dan Morgan made no secret about his desire to build through the draft and supplement any remaining needs from the free-agent pool as part of his new strategy. The Panthers don't have a first-round pick, but there should be a few decent wide receiver options available at No. 33 overall.

And yet, that hasn't stopped some from speculating about something bigger. Specifically, making a trade with the Cincinnati Bengals for Tee Higgins.

Carolina Panthers named among best fits for Tee Higgins trade

Diggs' trade seems to have reignited the trade talk surrounding Higgins and Brandon Aiyuk of the San Francisco 49ers. Unsurprisingly, the Panthers have come up, with Adam Wells from The Bleacher Report naming Carolina as one of the best fits remaining for Higgins - a wideout of exceptional promise who is no stranger to the area having played his college football at Clemson.

"Adding [Tee] Higgins would dramatically improve the [Carolina] Panthers' receiver room. They would have a bona fide No. 1 on the outside who can create plays deep down the field or in traffic. Even if the Panthers had to trade the No. 33 pick, which is their first selection in the 2024 draft, they need to surround Young with as much immediate-impact talent as possible to determine if he's the quarterback they thought he was when they selected him with the top pick last year."

Adam Wells, Bleacher Report

This is becoming a little tiresome.

It looked for a long time as if the rumors and hearsay had died down. Diggs' move indicated the wheels are still turning around the NFL despite the draft getting closer. But when one factors everything into the equation, it's hard to see Morgan going down this route based on the moves made during his first offseason as general manager so far.

The Panthers made one trade for a wide receiver by acquiring Diontae Johnson from the Pittsburgh Steelers. This is a low-risk, high-reward move to help Bryce Young. If it doesn't come off, it's cost Morgan very little and he can get off the player once his contract expires in 2025.

Higgins - although far superior to Johnson - would cost a lot more. There's also the small matter of his desire to get a lucrative extension from the Bengals or elsewhere if they decided to extract maximum value for the former second-round selection.

It's difficult, but not impossible. The Panthers have a little less than $4 million in salary-cap space currently. Morgan is planning for the future and taking dead cap hits now to provide more freedom to make bigger splashes down the road. Trading for and extending Higgins fits into this bracket - whether it's too soon at this stage of Carolina's rebuild is another matter.

Anything can happen in the NFL. But fans should focus on the draft rather than holding out hope of trading for someone like Higgins.