GREEN BAY, Wis. – With Robby Anderson signing with the Cam Newton-less Carolina Panthers on Tuesday, an almost-bare cupboard of impact receivers in free agency has been emptied.
Not long after releasing quarterback Newton on Tuesday, the Panthers agreed to terms on a two-year, $20 million deal with Anderson. In four seasons with the Jets, the former undrafted free agent caught 207 passes for 3,059 yards and 20 touchdowns.
Anderson and Emmanuel Sanders were the top receivers on the free-agent market. The Packers were “real” contenders for Sanders but lost him to the Saints on a two-year, $16 million contract.
Incredibly, the receiver to sign the biggest free-agent contract in terms of total money was Randall Cobb, who inked a three-year, $27 million contract with Houston. Beyond Cobb, Anderson and Sanders, no receiver has signed a contract worth more than $1.35 million.
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For the receiver-hungry Packers, there are no big fish lurking in the free-agent pond. Breshad Perriman, a first-round pick in 2015, caught a career-high 36 passes last season for Tampa Bay but has only 95 receptions with three teams over five seasons. Tajae Sharpe caught 25 passes last year for Tennessee. Devin Funchess, who missed last season with Indianapolis due to a broken collarbone, caught 161 passes in four seasons in Carolina. Once-touted draft prospects Paul Richardson and Rashard Higgins, past-their-prime veterans Ted Ginn and Demaryius Thomas, and troubled Josh Gordon are among the other receivers on the market.
All of that made Anderson an inviting option, but the Packers elected to save their precious cap space and look to an eyeballs-deep group of draft prospects.
At 6-foot-3 and with 4.34 speed in the 40, few players in the league can match Anderson’s physical skill-set. That elite combination hasn’t translated into anything resembling elite production. That includes 52 receptions for 779 yards and five scores in 2019. He was 19th with nine deep receptions. However, his career catch rate was just 54.2 percent. While some of that is due to some suspect quarterback play in his career, he played last season with Sam Darnold. While Darnold completed 61.9 percent of his passes, Anderson’s catch rate was only 54.2 percent.
Although the Panthers are in the beginning stages of a rebuild, Carolina signed Anderson due to his familiarity with first-year coach Matt Rhule. Anderson played for Rhule at Temple from 2013 through 2015.