The Carolina Panthers have already begun the process of finding their new head coach for 2023 and beyond. Matt Rhule was relieved of his duties after Week 5 this season, getting fired only in the third year of a seven-year deal that he signed back in 2020.
It was a major whiff by the Panthers as Rhule won five games in each of his first two seasons. While he had plenty of shortcomings with the franchise, the biggest issue was that they were unable to find capable quarterback play.
Teddy Bridgewater, Sam Darnold and Baker Mayfield all received shots but none were able to seize the job. P.J. Walker was sprinkled in there as well, but he also struggled to find any consistent production despite having some solid weapons around them.
Wide receiver D.J. Moore is a star, but in addition to finding a quarterback, the Panthers have to upgrade the weapons at the skill positions. Terrace Marshall Jr. showed flashes in 2022 and the team is hopeful that he can take that next step opposite of Moore.
The real hole in this passing offense is at the tight end position. In 2022, Stephen Sullivan, Giovanni Ricci, Tommy Tremble and Ian Thomas combined to catch 50 passes for 517 yards and three touchdowns at the tight end position. There were 14 tight ends individually that had at least 517 yards this season, putting into perspective how much of a need it is for the Panthers.
Looking to upgrade this offseason, a player to keep an eye on for them in free agency is Mike Gesicki of the Miami Dolphins. Gesicki is coming off the least productive campaign of his career since his rookie season, catching only 32 passes for 362 yards and five touchdowns.
His role in the offense was changed as Miami wanted to use him more as a blocker, but that isn’t an area that he excels in. Gesicki is a legitimate mismatch for opposing teams in the red zone and has some juice running the seams for big plays.
With Thomas already locked in as the blocking tight end, Gesicki would have the opportunity to return to a more straightforward pass-catching role in Carolina. That was a role he flourished in previously, as he had back-to-back 50+ catch, 700+ yard and 5+ touchdown seasons in 2020 and 2021.
Regardless of who is under center for the Panthers in 2023, that kind of production at the tight end spot is something that they would benefit greatly from.