The Carolina Panthers acquired second-year wideout Kevin Norwood in a trade with Seattle on Monday, a step toward improving a receiving corps that has been plagued by injuries and dropped passes throughout the preseason.
Carolina gave up a 2017 draft pick for Norwood, who was reportedly on the verge of being waived by the Seahawks. Rather than risk having another team claim Norwood, the Panthers sent Seattle a conditional, late-round pick for him, according to a league source.
Norwood, 6-2 and 200 pounds, has only a few days to prove he belongs on the Panthers’ 53-man roster, which must be set by 4 p.m. Saturday.
“Kevin gives us another player to compete at the wide receiver position,” Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman said. “He has the size you look for along with toughness and smarts. We studied him a lot going into last year’s draft and we look forward to having him as part of our receiving corps.”
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Kevin Norwood, 6-2 and 200 pounds, has only a few days to prove he belongs on the Panthers’ 53-man roster.
Norwood, Seattle’s fourth-round pick last year, caught nine passes for 102 yards in nine games as a rookie. He had two receptions for 13 yards in a 13-9 win against the Panthers in October.
Norwood was a part of three national title teams at Alabama, finishing with at least 66 receiving yards in two of the BCS Championship Games. His career numbers for the Crimson Tide: 81 catches for 1,275 yards and 12 touchdowns.
The Panthers have been reeling at receiver since No. 1 wideout Kelvin Benjamin went down with a season-ending knee injury two weeks ago.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera said then the team was sticking with the wideouts they had on the roster.
But with each dropped pass and injury, Rivera warmed to the idea of looking for outside help.
A few hours before Carolina traded for Norwood, Rivera left open the possibility the Panthers could add a veteran with roster cuts looming.
“You don’t know who’s out there. Once we get through it, who knows?” Rivera said following Monday’s practice. “Maybe there’s a veteran that might pop and he might be somebody that would fit us in terms of what we’re looking for.”
The Panthers signed receiver Stephen Hill to the practice squad last August after the Jets waived him. Hill’s torn ACL during the second day in Spartanburg this year was an ominous start to training camp for the wide receivers.
Benjamin, coming off the most prolific receiving season by Panthers rookie, tore his ACL on a non-contact play Aug. 19 during a joint practice with the Dolphins.
Rookie wide receiver Devin Funchess, the presumptive replacement for Benjamin, has played in only one preseason game because of a hamstring issue.
Rookie wide receiver Devin Funchess, the presumptive replacement for Benjamin, has played in only one preseason game because of a hamstring issue. Funchess aggravated the injury Monday and his status for Thursday’s final exhibition at Pittsburgh is uncertain.
Veteran slot receiver Jerricho Cotchery missed his second consecutive practice Monday after injuring his groin in last week’s exhibition against New England. Rivera thinks Cotchery will be ready by the Sept. 13 opener at Jacksonville.
The biggest concern among the healthy receivers has been Corey Brown, who suddenly can’t hold on to the ball.
Brown has five drops in the past two exhibitions, including two that would have been touchdowns. Brown dropped two more Monday during team drills, failing to pull down a Cam Newton pass in the end zone.
Rivera said Brown hasn’t been aggressive enough in going after passes, based on the coaches’ film study.
“(Receivers coach) Ricky Proehl pointed it out after watching tape, he needs to attack the ball. If you look at the drops he had, he was waiting for the ball to come to him,” Rivera said. “Sometimes just changing the way you’re doing things or your approach may help. We’ll find out.”
Brown wasn’t the only receiver dropping the ball.
Jarrett Boykin and Mike Brown, acquired during the offseason, both had passes go through their hands during 11-on-11 drills.
Ted Ginn, who has been the most consistent receiver since Benjamin’s injury, believes the Panthers have talented receivers.
“We’re all good in our own way,” Ginn said. “I think we’re all No. 1s so we just have to go out and play like we’re No. 1s.”
Rivera said Thursday’s game at Pittsburgh will be important for a number of receivers, including Corey Brown, Brenton Bersin, Boykin and Mike Brown. Now he can add Norwood’s name to that list.
And the Panthers aren’t necessarily done looking.
“If we don’t have it in-house, we’re going to have to out and find it,” Rivera said Monday before the Norwood trade. “So we’ll see.”