Panthers Could Gobble Another Part of Vikings Free Agency

Jan 31, 2023; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers head coach Frank Reich speaks at his introductory press conference at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Griffin Zetterberg-USA TODAY Sports.

Last year, it was Xavier Woods, a safety who left the Minnesota Vikings for the Carolina Panthers. Fast forward to January 2023, another safety, Myles Dorn, became a Panther. And on Sunday, longtime Viking Adam Thielen signed on Carolina’s dotted line for the next three years.

Still, with free agency entering a second wave, Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer may not be done gobbling prospective Vikings free-agent plans.

Panthers Could Gobble Another Part of Vikings Free Agency

Minnesota needs a WR2 to replace — you guessed it — Adam Thielen. If Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah prefers not to use the NFL draft for the task, he’s down to two or three free-agent options: Odell Beckham, Mecole Hardman, and D.J. Chark.

Panthers Could Gobble
Jan 8, 2023; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Detroit Lions wide receiver DJ Chark (4) celebrates getting a first down on fourth down in the closing minutes against the Green Bay Packers during their football game at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Dan Powers/Appleton Post-Crescent via USA TODAY NETWORK.

Well, in addition to landing Thielen over the weekend, the Panthers evidently want Chark, too, to help replace Pro Bowler D.J. Moore, who was traded to the Chicago Bears last week. Citing ESPN, BroBible‘s aggregator Dov Kleiman tweeted Sunday, “The Panthers are ‘attempting’ to sign both former Vikings WR Adam Thielen and former Lions WR DJ Chark, according to ESPN. Carolina recently traded away WR1 DJ Moore to the Bears and need to replace him.”

Landing Thielen and Chark would transform the Panthers WR corps into this:

  • WR1: Adam Thielen
  • WR2: D.J. Chark
  • WR3: Laviska Shenault
  • WR4: Terrace Marshall
  • WR5: Shi Smith
One Working Theory
Sep 20, 2020; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver D.J. Chark (17) before the game against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports.

Carolina also owns the first overall pick in April’s draft, so C.J. Stroud or Bryce Young will likely toss the pigskin to that receiving group this September. Now, the question remains — can the Panthers sign Chark, or does he have other suitors?

If he does, the Vikings should be one, as Chark adeptly blends size (6’4″) and speed (4.34). The knock on him is injury, and perhaps that is holding Minnesota back from fully exploring his free agency. But the WR market is down to nubbins for WR2 candidates — and wasn’t very robust in the first place.

Pro Football Network‘s Jason Katz theorized a Vikings-Chark relationship last weekend, “NFL teams seldom make trades within their division, but this isn’t trading. Chark is free to sign anywhere he pleases. It just so happens that a Lions NFC North rival in the Minnesota Vikings provides one of the best fits for him.”

Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver D.J. Chark (17) makes a touchdown reception in the first quarter of the NFL Week 4 game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Jacksonville Jaguars at Paul Brown Stadium in downtown Cincinnati on Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020. © Sam Greene via Imagn Content Services, LLC.

“The Vikings almost always have at least two high-quality wide receivers. Over the past 30 years, Minnesota has had the likes of Cris Carter, Randy Moss, Percy Harvin, Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, and Justin Jefferson. Most of the time, they’ve had two of these guys at once,” Katz added about the Vikings desire for two productive wideouts.

Chark made headlines during his sophomore season, 2019, with the Jaguars, tabulating 73 receptions for 1,008 yards and 8 touchdowns — and a Pro Bowl nod.

The LSU alumnus has played five years in the NFL, tallying 177 receptions for 2,544 yards and 18 touchdowns in 54 games. He averages 47.1 receiving yards per game and can be a homerun hitter for deep balls when targeted. 

Lions wide receiver DJ Chark catches a touchdown pass against Vikings cornerback Cameron Dantzler Sr. during the first half on Sunday, Dec. 11, 2022, at Ford Field. © Kirthmon F. Dozier / USA TODAY NETWORK.

Since turning pro, Chark has caught touchdown passes from Nick Foles, Mike Glennon, Jared Goff, the Urban Meyer version of Trevor Lawrence, and Gardner Minshew — not exactly a who’s-who of quarterback splendor. Perhaps the man could thrive with a single QB1 or a passer more talented than that hodgepodge.

It should be noted that Chark has only been linked to the Vikings in theory. He makes sense on paper, but whether Chark is on the Vikings actual free-agent shortlist is unclear.

He should be, though. Otherwise, a rookie WR is likely coming to a Vikings draft near you in five weeks.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).

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