Robby Anderson finds a home with the Panthers

Robby Anderson

CHARLOTTE — For Robby Anderson, there was an immediate financial benefit to signing a two-year contract extension Tuesday, a reward for a career season with the Panthers in 2020.

But moments after a practice that included another incredible catch (not his first highlight of the preseason), Anderson was already thinking about the future.

He said he loves playing for the Panthers, playing with Sam Darnold, playing alongside DJ Moore and Christian McCaffrey, but the list was too long to specify one particular thing.

"I just felt like it made sense, and just was comfortable with it," Anderson said of his new deal. "Everything. This is ideally where I wanted to be for my future. Since I came here, I felt like I was finding my dream. . . . That's a big factor too, being back with a quarterback I'm comfortable with, that I know is going to be here too.

"Everything across the board was checkmarks. Not just about the money part of it."

The tone around Anderson Tuesday was one of joy, immediately for those around him, and perhaps later for himself.

"It's a whole lot of money in here," Moore yelled with a laugh as Anderson got off a golf cart and tried to slip quietly into practice. Anderson just grinned, and said afterward the enormity of the deal hasn't really hit him yet.

"DJ came up hugged me, and everybody's been celebrating with me, so it just feels good," Anderson said. "I haven't even really enjoyed the moment because I was focused on practice. That comes first.

"I think when I get home and reflect, I'm going to cherish and really feel the moment."

DJ Moore, Robby Anderson

Before he had a chance to reflect, however, he made one of the plays that few others can make.

Streaking toward the left corner of the end zone, he got one hand on a Darnold pass, but it glanced away. After it bounced off cornerback Donte Jackson's foot, Anderson calmly collected it, reminiscent of his one-handed catch in training camp that might have been the highlight of the month in Spartanburg.

Anderson shrugged and said if he'd have run a cleaner route, it might not have required theatrics. "But it was just a crazy catch," he said with a grin.

He made plenty of those last year.

He flashed talent in New York the first time with Darnold, but never consistent production. Coming to Charlotte on what amounted to a one-year prove-it deal in 2020, he proved it, setting career highs with 95 catches for 1,096 yards.

"Their chemistry is important, but Robby did this on his own," general manager Scott Fitterer said of Darnold and Anderson's reunion. "He produced and he earned this contract."

He also did it differently than many expected, with Moore remaining the primary deep threat, and Anderson taking his narrow frame to places skinny guys often try to avoid.

"I know he was a deep ball threat, and when we signed him, people said that's all he is is a deep-ball guy," Panthers head coach Matt Rhule said. "But he made most of his money last year across the middle, shallow crosses, catch-and-run type plays.

"To be 170 pounds and catch the ball and work the middle of the field the way he did, . . . look at the deep balls, those were mainly DJ last year, and Robby was more of a shallow and intermediate threat."

Robby Anderson, Steve Smith Sr.

Now, they have both taken care of, and took another step toward building some stability on offense.

Fitterer said it was important to stagger deals as often as possible, so positions don't become depleted all at once.

They've picked up Moore's fifth-year option and he's under contract through 2022. Anderson's now locked up through 2023, and rookies Terrace Marshall Jr. and Shi Smith through 2024 (with McCaffrey's deal running through 2025).

"It's not an intentional effort for skill positions or receiver, just who are the playmakers on our team, who are the guys we want here, who's doing it the right way, who's buying into the program?" Fitterer said. "Those are the guys we're going to do.

"That combination of DJ and Robby right now is great for Terrace and Shi as well. To have those guys in the pipeline coming along, if they produce this year, great, we just want that continuity."

And now Anderson has that too, in a place he feels comfortable, with people he feels comfortable around.

"I know I'm blessed," he said. "I thank God more than anything, because early on in my career, I was lost in a sense, and trying to find my way. God blessed me, I wouldn't call them mistakes, but lessons I learned from. Putting me where I needed to be and around the people I needed to be around and learning wisdom and learning things and growing into a better man. That's why I cherish these moments and these blessings."

Check out select photos of Robby Anderson from production day.

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