CHARLOTTE – With one of their regular pass-catchers heading into the free agent market next month, the Panthers held onto some of their depth at the position.
The Panthers signed wide receivers Brandon Zylstra and Keith Kirkwood to one-year deals Monday. They were both scheduled to be restricted free agents.
Zylstra, 27, played in every game and caught three passes for 35 yards last season.
Of those receiving yards, 28 of them came dramatically — on a fake punt against the Chiefs, hauling in the surprise pass from punter Joseph Charlton.
Kirkwood, 26, played in just one game last year because of injuries. He started the season on injured reserve, was activated for the Bears game, but re-injured his left clavicle and was shut down for the year. He caught one 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 starting wideouts DJ Moore and Robby Anderson under contract, though Curtis Samuel is slated to become an unrestricted free agent on March 17. None of the rest of the receivers on the roster at the moment (Marken Michel, Ventell Bryant, Amara Darboh, Omar Bayless, and Ishmael Hyman) caught a pass last year.
The Panthers still have two RFAs they'd like to retain — offensive tackle Trent Scott and defensive tackle Efe Obada.
Scott started seven games at left tackle because of injuries to Russell Okung. A known commodity to line coach Pat Meyer from San Diego, Scott provides a bit of insurance at a position in flux.
The Panthers have just one of their starting linemen from last year under contract (center Matt Paradis), though they're expected to use the franchise tag on right tackle Taylor Moton if they can't reach a long-term deal.
Obada developed into a solid interior rusher, and was second on the team with 5.5 sacks last year.