Devin Funchess announced that he would not return as a Panther in a Cameo introduction video. In the short video, Funchess described himself as “a former Carolina Panther looking for a new team.” (Cameo.com is a service were people can pay to receive shout outs from the stars.) Sadly, Funchess never was a star in Carolina, despite at times flashing some hopeful potential. After four years of inconsistent play with plenty of opportunities, it appears that the Panthers are opting for a more reliable option.
Funchess is one of the last relics of David Gettleman’s attempt to big-body the opponent to death. The hope was to pair Funchess with Kelvin Benjamin to pose a size match-up problem. It never worked, despite plenty of investment and opportunity for both players.
Carolina traded a 3rd and a 6th round pick to move up nine spots to get Funchess. It was a bit bizarre at the time because it didn’t seem that anyone was dying to get Funchess at the moment. There were still wide receivers on the board and the run in the second round suggested teams were targeting defensive players in that stretch. Gettleman explained, “The board was really getting picked clean," Gettleman said. "We had five players up there, and we just didn't know if any of them would be there...A couple of them fell off real quick, and then it was time for us to make the move. We just didn't feel like he was going to be there.”
Funchess time in Carolina was up and down. There were times in his rookie season where people believed the had the potential to turn into a real player. He was thrust immediately into a large role with the team when Benjamin tore his ACL in training camp. His second season was plagued by injury but when he finished 2017 strong with over 800 yards, people expected the final year of his contract to be a big one. Once again, he regressed finishing 2019 riding the pine after a season plagued by big drops and big disappointment. Handed the #1 receiving role, Funchess lost his starting job (albeit they contended this was because of injury) to rookie DJ Moore and second-year player Curtis Samuel.
Funchess struggles in Carolina were never impeded by opportunity. From his very first season, he was given a large role in the offense, one which only compounded each year. Carolina now has to figure out how to move forward without a player with Funchess’s body-type. The Panthers receiving corps now looks starkly different than the one Gettleman envisioned when he drafted Benjamin and Funchess. DJ Moore, more resemblant of a Steve Smith, and Curtis Samuel, who reminds of a Tyreek Hill, is explosive and poses a tremendous threat after the catch. There is a need, however, for some size, particularly for redzone opportunities where the shortened field negates some of the talents of Moore and Samuel.
Moving on from Funchess creates a need, one that we will be waiting anxiously to see if the Panthers address in free agency, the draft, or if they are content with Torrey Smith being that guy alongside the Moore and Samuel.
By Tony Dunn
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