Carolina Panthers: Could Hakeem Nicks come home?


Here we go. Free agency is among us.

There have already been a lot of moves that will now become a official, but one thing is certain – there are many more to come. The hot free-agent topic involving the Carolina Panthers is boosting their group of receivers. Their biggest need is on the offensive line, but the pass-catchers are garnering more attention.

More from Carolina Panthers

A couple of new guys have been secured. The team signed tackle Michael Oher and via Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer, Ted Ginn is back in Carolina after spending 2014 with the Arizona Cardinals.

Bringing Ginn back to Carolina was a great move. He instantly brings much-needed speed and is a huge boost in the punt and kick return game. That being said, he’s not enough to turn this pass-attack around, as he isn’t exactly a number two receiver.

So, with so many receivers having already chosen their destination, who’s left for the Panthers to choose from?

There are a couple of veteran guys coming off of consecutive disappointing seasons that they could look at, such as Michael Crabtree and Hakeem Nicks. Of those two, Nicks could be a good pickup for Carolina.

For starters, signing Nicks would be somewhat of a homecoming. He went to high school in Charlotte at Independence High and played his college football in Chapel Hill at the University of North Carolina.

He was actually close to signing with the Panthers last offseason, but decided Indianapolis was a better choice for him at the time. Things didn’t work out there the way he had planned, so he may opt for wearing black and blue this time around.

The move would make sense for Panthers general manager David Gettleman and company as well. After all, Nicks is only 27 years old, so he certainly still has plenty left in the tank.

A few seasons ago, he was regarded as one of the best wideouts in the league. Nicks posted back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in 2010 and 2011 while playing with the New York Giants. His 11 touchdown catches in 2010 were a career-high and his 1,192 receiving yards in 2011 were also a personal best.

Injuries have slowed his career down and are probably why isn’t still a top receiver. In fact, last year was the first time in six seasons that he played in all 16 games.

He has shown in the past that he can be a serious threat, and paired up with Kelvin Benjamin, there’s a chance he could return to that form. Nicks has never really played opposite a number-one receiver (at least not one one with Benjamin’s talent), but doing so could really boost his production.

Sure, there are a lot of “if’s” and “but’s” surrounding him, but reality is, there aren’t many other (better) options.

Randall Cobb and Jeremy Maclin were really the only long-term possibilities that weren’t franchise-tagged, but they’re both off the table now. If the Panthers were to swing for the fences and overpay for someone with mid-level talent, that would set them back far more than taking a flyer on Nicks.

Free agency is only just beginning, so there’s sure to be plenty of action. Grabbing Nicks and pairing him with a rookie receiver, as well as Benjamin and Ginn just might turn this Panthers’ passing attack around.

Next: The 30 greatest NFL teams of all time

More from NFL Spin Zone