Carolina Panthers would be foolish not to pursue this unheralded pass-catcher

K.J. Osborn
K.J. Osborn / Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

The Carolina Panthers would be foolish not to explore this unheralded pass-catcher when the free-agent chaos gets underway.

Bryce Young's rookie season was an unmitigated disaster made worse by C.J. Stroud's phenomenal immediate success with the Houston Texans. The No. 1 overall selection thought he was walking into a decent situation with experienced coaches and playmakers steering him in the right direction. It was the complete opposite.

That's why doing everything possible to make things easier for Young is among the Carolina Panthers' biggest priorities this offseason. They must maximize the signal-caller's rookie contract and ensure he becomes a franchise-caliber presence under center. The investment made in the former Alabama star alone dictates as much.

Money is relatively tight in Carolina once Brian Burns gets the franchise tag and Frankie Luvu receives a well-deserved extension. Speculation remains about a big splash for someone like Mike Evans in free agency. That might be a stretch, but there should be a few decent options on the market worth considering.

Carolina Panthers should pursue K.J. Osborn in free agency

Much will depend on his situation with the Minnesota Vikings, but K.J. Osborn is a name that could come into discussions. The wide receiver has three years of experience as a prominent part of the team's offensive rotation. He hasn't become a legitimate force from a starting capacity, but he provides the sort of dependability that was sorely missing from Carolina's passing attack last season aside from Adam Thielen.

Playing second-fiddle to Justin Jefferson and losing quarterback Kirk Cousins to injury didn't do Osborn any favors in a contract year. What the Panthers need to figure out is whether or not the former Miami star could become more impactful as a primary weapon for Young.

Osborn's career catch success rate stands at 64 percent. He's a tremendous route-runner out of the slot that can be called upon in key moments. He's developing more efficiency being deployed on the outside with improved body control and enhancements working against press coverage. His five drops last season were a slight concern, but there's a lot to like about his chance of thriving further within Dave Canales' expansive scheme.

Just what sort of contract Osborn's representatives demand is another matter. According to Spotrac, his market value stands at $7.56 million per season on a two-year, $15.13 million deal. Considering what wideouts around the league are getting paid these days, this could be a bargain when it's all said and done.

Much more will be needed to help Young excel, but acquiring someone like Osborn would be a good place to start. If the Panthers convince Thielen to stick around, find a physically imposing wideout via the 2024 NFL Draft to play outside, and Jonathan Mingo develops, things could be looking up for the Heisman Trophy winner entering his second season.

The Vikings could make a concerted effort to keep Osborn, especially if they decide to give Cousins another lucrative deal. But if the organization lets him test the market, there should be plenty of interest in securing his services.

Looking at Osborn's skill set and how he might fit into Canales' schematic concepts, they'd be foolish not to throw their hat in the ring. Whether this is an attractive destination for any player when they have other offers on the table is the big question.