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Which 2017 Panthers players were missed the most in 2018? – Offense edition

The Carolina Panthers stumbled to a 7-9 record in 2018, just one year removed from a solid 2017 campaign in which they went 11-5 and made the postseason. One way to reflect on the year-over-year decline is to evaluate which players from the 2017 squad the Panthers actively chose to not bring back this year (i.e. traded or didn’t re-sign).

With that in mind here is the recap of the 2017 offensive players who saw at least a decent amount of playing time and how much (or little) the team missed them this year.

G Andrew Norwell

Departed via: Free agency. Signed 5-year, $66.5 million deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars

After a phenomenal 2017 All-Pro season with the Panthers, Norwell broke the bank as a free agent as he left Charlotte. In 2018 he played very well for the Jags but his season only lasted 11 games before he landed on injured reserve.

Final evaluation: Happy for him he got paid, sad Carolina couldn’t afford him.

WR Kelvin Benjamin

Departed via: Traded during 2017 season to the Buffalo Bills for 2018 3rd and 7th round picks

KB trashed Cam Newton after the trade and became a pariah to the Panthers fan base. Finally freed from his “inaccurate” quarterback in Carolina, Benjamin registered the lowest catch percentage in the entire NFL in 2018 at 37.3 percent (min. 60 targets). He was waived by the Bills in early December 2018 then signed by the Kansas City Chiefs, but Kelvin was a healthy scratch in KC’s divisional playoff game.

Final evaluation: Wow! We flipped arguably the least productive receiver in the league for Rashaan Gaulden (3rd round) and Andre Smith (7th round). Thanks, KB!

RB Jonathan Stewart

Departed via: Cut by Panthers. Signed 2-year, $6.9 million deal with the New York Giants

J-Stew’s 2018 season in New York was a disaster from the outset after he was ineffective in the preseason and struggled in the opening weeks of the regular season. In all, his 2018 stats consisted of six carries for 17 yards before going on injured reserve in November.

Final evaluation: Much respect to J-Stew, but the Panthers were right to move on.

TE Ed Dickson

Departed via: Free agency. Signed 3-year, $10.7 million deal with the Seattle Seahawks

Dickson is a solid veteran to have on an NFL roster for the right price, but he isn’t a difference maker. His 2018 season in Seattle was a typical ho-hum Dickson year with 12 receptions for 143 yards and three touchdowns in 10 games.

Final evaluation: Ian Thomas’ future is far more exciting than Ed Dickson’s present

WR Russell Shepard

Departed via: Cut by Panthers. Signed a 1-year, $1.25 million deal with the New York Giants

The Panthers signed Shepard to a 3-year contract prior to the 2017 season with the hopes of developing the emerging receiver into a reliable weapon. Instead, Shepard was nearly invisible in Carolina in 2017 (17-202-1) and was cut after one season. His 2018 production dropped even further with the Giants (10-188-2).

Final evaluation: Would’ve been buried in 2018 behind D.J. Moore, Curtis Samuel, Devin Funchess, and Jarius Wright.

QB Derek Anderson

Departed via: Free agency. Signed one-year deal with the Buffalo Bills in October 2018

After seven seasons with DA as Cam Newton’s backup, the Panthers felt it was time to move on. Anderson signed with the Bills after Week 5 of the 2018 season. In two starts in Weeks 7 and 8 he committed six turnovers with zero passing touchdowns before landing on injured reserve in Week 9.

Final evaluation: It was better grooming Kyle Allen and Taylor Heinicke than watching DA’s continued decline.

WR Brenton Bersin

Departed via: Flew away on a magnificent unicorn with a white, flowing mane

While his eight receptions for 128 yards in 2017 were easily replaced, there will forever be a void in our hearts. Sunshine is so dedicated to the Panthers that he voluntarily chose not to play in the NFL in 2018 (or at least that’s what I’m telling myself.)

Final evaluation: Ain’t no Sunshine when he’s gone…

Overall, props to Marty Hurney for letting each of these guys walk. It hurt to lose Norwell but the Panthers have too many holes on the roster to justify paying a guard in excess of $13 million per year. Hurney absolutely fleeced the Bills by getting a third and seventh round pick out of KB. Moving on from Derek Anderson gave us the Kyle Allen/Taylor Heinicke experience while Ed Dickson’s departure allowed Ian Thomas to really develop as a rookie.

Overall, these moves led to healthy roster churn and fostered the development of younger players. Not bad, Marty.

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