In the world of sports, ticker-tape parades are for winning championships. Ian Rapoport of NFL.com announced Thursday that free-agent wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery had chosen the Carolina Panthers as his new team, changing the mood around Charlotte, N.C. from anger and frustration to elation.
The Panthers finally signed a wide receiver. Rejoice.
However, that feeling of jubilation should also be tempered. Cotchery brings 437 career receptions to Carolina. That’s 432 more than the combined total (five) that the six Panthers receivers on the roster had prior to his arrival.
|2014 Carolina Panthers WR's: Career Stats|
|Pro Football Reference|
Maybe the city shouldn't prepare a parade just yet. If it wants to throw a post-Super Bowl party any time in the near future, Cotchery needs to be a first step toward solving Carolina’s problems on offense.
The Panthers need to get busy, and quickly.
Carolina has had trouble bolstering its wide receiver corps since it released Steve Smith and the three other receivers who caught passes for the Panthers in 2013—Brandon LaFell, Ted Ginn Jr. and Domenik Hixon—signed elsewhere.
Hakeem Nicks, who many believed was Carolina’s main target in free agency, said general manager Dave Gettleman offered him a deal to play for the Panthers, but Nicks signed with the Indianapolis Colts.
“I think it was just the situation," Nicks said on a conference call. "After talking to Gettleman, I think he agreed that this is the best situation for me as well, too, even though they made the offer. Like I said, I feel like I made the best decision and I’m going to take advantage of it.”
Then Joe Person of The Charlotte Observer reported that Cotchery left Charlotte after his visit Tuesday without a contract in hand:
Former Green Bay Packers wide receiver James Jones told ESPN reporter Josina Anderson on Sunday that he “would love the opportunity to play for the Carolina Panthers.” Jones signed with the Oakland Raiders on Monday.
Cotchery did eventually decide on Carolina, and now the Panthers have to do more.
According to D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, former Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Kevin Cone will visit the Panthers on Friday. Cone is likely a depth addition, though—not someone who should be a prominent part of Carolina’s offensive attack at wide receiver.
Another option for the Panthers could be former Tennessee Titans receiver Kenny Britt, who Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk said could visit Carolina soon. But if Gettleman was willing to part ways with the best player in franchise history because of distractions, does Britt make sense?
Sidney Rice and Santonio Holmes are arguably the best receivers left on the open market, but neither is a true option as a No. 1 receiver. Person states that Carolina hasn’t reached out to Rice yet.
Cotchery caught 10 touchdown passes last season on 46 receptions and 602 receiving yards. The receptions and yards were highs during his three-year stint in Pittsburgh, while his 10 touchdowns were a career best.
As it stands right now, Cotchery and tight end Greg Olsen are the only real receiving threats on the Panthers’ roster. Cotchery can expect double coverage and shifted coverage toward his side of the field until Carolina does something to bolster its receiving corps.
Smith knows that feeling. He never had a real No. 2 option during the Cam Newton era in Carolina.
However, Cotchery will have it worse. LaFell and Ginn were far better options than Marvin McNutt or Tavarres King. There’s not much of a shot that Cotchery will replicate his 2013 numbers while being hounded by every defense he faces.
The other option outside the free-agent market is to grab a receiver early in the 2014 draft, possibly even in the first round.
On one hand, Newton might like that idea. On the other, his offensive line has also been ripped to shreds this offseason. Would Newton rather have another receiver or not get pummeled every third play?
Whatever direction the Panthers move in during the draft, it’s imperative that Carolina be active for the remainder of free agency—at least as active as it can be with limited funds.
Cotchery is a nice start, but if McNutt is the No. 2 or 3 receiver on the depth chart come training camp, the Panthers will have to chalk the offseason up as a failure.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and statements were obtained firsthand.
Knox Bardeen is the NFC South lead writer for Bleacher Report and the author of “100 Things Falcons Fans Should Know & Do Before they Die.” Be sure to follow Knox on Twitter.