CHARLOTTE – With one of their regular pass receivers heading to the free agent market next month, the Panthers maintained some of their depth at the position.
The Panthers signed wide receivers Brandon Zylstra and Keith Kirkwood for one year on Monday. Both were scheduled to be restricted free agents.
Zylstra, 27, played every game and caught three passes for 35 yards last season.
Of those receiving yards, 28 of them came in spectacular fashion – on a false punt against the Chiefs, drawing a surprise pass from punter Joseph Charlton.
Kirkwood, 26, played just one game last year due to injuries. He started the season on injured reserve, was activated for the Bears game, but injured his left collarbone again and was closed for a year. He caught a pass for 13 yards.
As a rookie with the Saints in 2018 (when Panthers offensive coordinator Joe Brady was on staff there), Kirkwood caught 13 passes for 209 yards and two touchdowns. He also played for Panthers head coach Matt Rhule at Temple.
The Panthers have wide receivers DJ Moore and Robby Anderson under contract, although Curtis Samuel is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on March 17. None of the other receivers on the roster at this point – Marken Michel, Ventell Bryant, Amara Darboh, Omar Bayless and Ishmael Hyman – caught a pass last year.
The Panthers still have two RFAs they would like to retain: offensive tackle Trent Scott and defensive tackle Efe Obada.
Scott started seven games at left tackle because of Russell Okung’s injuries. Scott, a well known to San Diego line coach Pat Meyer, provides a bit of insurance in a changing position.
The Panthers only have one of their starting linemen from last year (center Matt Paradis) under contract, though they are expected to wear the franchise tag on right tackle Taylor Moton if they can’t come to a long-term deal. .
Obada developed into a solid inside running back and was second on the team with 5.5 sacks last year.