Murphy, 25, caught 15 passes last season for 241 yards and has 90 receptions over the span of his three-year career and 1,371 receiving yards. The fourth-round pick from Florida has shown flashes of brilliance as a downfield threat but has been too inconsistent with dropped passes.
Murphy was stuck with the Raiders behind Darrius Heyward-Bey, Denarius Moore and Jacoby Ford and wanted out of Oakland. The Panthers were truly untested at wide receiver after Steve Smith and needed the added depth on the roster.
The situation looks like a win-win on the surface for both teams—and quite frankly, it is. Oakland freed up a roster spot of a player they would likely have cut anyway (and got a seventh-round pick to boot) and Carolina added depth at a position of need.
Even though adding Murphy fills a need for Carolina—and wasn’t expensive, as a seventh-round pick secured the deal—it also shows that the Panthers aren’t as set at wide receiver as the team would have you believe.
The Panthers have one of best wide receivers in the NFL in Smith as a target for quarterback Cam Newton, and Smith enjoyed a re-emergence last season with 79 catches and 1,394 yards receiving.
After that, Brandon LaFell and David Gettis were going to have to fight of a slew of other young receivers to fill out the depth chart.
Carolina flirted with then-free agent Jacoby Jones in May, but Jones chose Baltimore as a landing spot. Then free agent Plaxico Burress went on the radio in June and said his preferred situation would be to finalize a deal to play in Carolina.
From a numbers standpoint—he caught eight touchdown passes last year, more than all the receivers on Carolina’s depth chart, not named Smith, combined—adding Burress made sense. He could give the Panthers a red-zone threat the team desperately needed and add experience to a young corps.
The Panthers passed on Burress, hinting that the team felt secure in how the group of receivers was coming to shape. Adding Murphy right before training camp shows a different story.
LaFell caught only 36 passes last season, after 38 in 2010, but is considered a breakout candidate in 2012. He’ll still occupy the second starting spot on Carolina’s roster opposite of Smith.
Murphy will likely come in and compete with Gettis for the spot of WR3 on Carolina’s depth chart. Gettis missed the 2011 season after having surgery to repair his ACL. He caught 37 passes in 2010, and seems to be ready to perform, but injury concerns loom over his head.
Enter Murphy—who also must answer injury concerns—to the mix. He’ll surely bring to the table another option for Newton. If Murphy and Newton can build a rapport (the duo spent two seasons on the roster of the Florida Gators in 2007 and ’08) and Murphy can put his dropped-pass troubles behind him—he dropped two of just 17 catchable balls last year—Murphy can flourish in Carolina.
Murphy is also nice insurance in case Gettis can’t get back to form. But don’t push Murphy too high up the depth chart just yet.
The Murphy deal on Monday was a good move for the Panthers front office. The cost of obtaining him was cheap, and there’s some upside there that could blossom into good numbers.
But adding Murphy doesn’t solve Carolina’s issues at wide receiver.
Murphy is just as untested, and his potential filled with question marks as Gettis, and even LaFell. Murphy’s addition is just a numbers game.
Now Carolina has three options that could pan out in 2012, plus a number of rookies that may turn heads in camp, instead of just two. And at the price of just a seventh-round pick, the move was an easy gamble for general manager Marty Hurney.