The Carolina Panthers have a great shot at winning the NFC South this year, and it is not 100 percent because of how bad the rest of the division is. By adding Bryce Young, this team has a lot to look forward to moving forward.

But their offseason did not go off without a hitch – and it all ties back to their plan to upgrade their offensive weapons for their unknown next QB at the time.

Paying Adam Thielen $25 Million to be their WR1

It was an obvious fit for the Panthers and Thielen, as they had no proven offensive talent for Young to throw to after they moved wide receiver DJ Moore in a deal to get the number one overall selection from the Chicago Bears. But there are plenty of things working against Thielen justifying his big-money deal.

First, a mention about the move that came in second to the addition of Thielen – signing Miles Sanders to a lot of money ($25.4 million max over 4 seasons) for a position that has had too much injury and turnover is tough to justify.

Teams that draft running backs early or back up a Brinks truck to a running back for a contract typically struggle, and even though Sanders is still only 25 years old, backs on big deals have a track record for bottoming out much earlier than most other positions.

But the need was even more pressing than at receiver, especially after the mid-season trade of Christian McCaffrey to the San Francisco 49ers. With no real talent at this position entering free agency, Sanders made sense and is young enough to somewhat fit into Young’s timeline.

But back to the addition of Thielen – by adding the former Minnesota Vikings receiver on a deal worth up to $25 million over 3 seasons, the Panthers cornered themselves for at least the next two seasons. With a potential out between the second and third seasons of his deal, Carolina could get away from Thielen after paying him $18 million, which is still a hefty chunk of change.

Thielen was a rock in Minnesota for seven seasons, acting as the WR1 for many years until Justin Jefferson easily took that crown. Over the final few years with the Vikings, Thielen fit well as their WR2 option for Kirk Cousins, as he soaked up plenty of underneath targets.

But having only played one full seasons (2022) since 2018 speaks volumes about how likely it is he plays out the entirety of his new deal – plus, can his healthy year be seen as an anomaly because it was a contract year, or was it him turning a corner for the first time since turning 30?

Expecting Thielen to run away with the WR1 he was signed for is not wishful thinking, especially with well-traveled veteran DJ Chark and high-upside rookie Jonathan Mingo both giving him competition.

Chark was last with the Detroit Lions and played fairly well, but he was also brought in as a veteran presence to help log some snaps and eventually become less of a top-depth-chart option. But for Mingo, his skill set and height are exactly what makes a WR1 in today’s NFL, making him the right choice to be Young’s top target.

Thielen will hold onto that WR1 role for the time being, especially since he was paid like one, but the Panthers invested far too much money into a guy who is 32 years old, has a checkered injury history, and likely doesn’t have enough left in the tank to fill that top role.

For a team that is within the early stages of its rebuilding window, adding a guy like Thielen on a big-money deal doesn’t add up. They certainly are banking on a healthy next few seasons for their new wide receiver, but that’s a pretty big risk to take.