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Why Panthers Won't Trade for Andre Johnson

Anthony Rizzuti

Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson reportedly wants out. But don't count on the Panthers to be a realistic landing spot for the 33-year-old receiver.

Haven’t we seen this before? Yeah, we have—about four months ago.

After playing every one of his 13 NFL seasons with the Carolina Panthers, wide receiver Steve Smith realized the end had finally arrived in Charlotte. And, boy, was it ugly.

Houston Texans wideout Andre Johnson may be in for a similar fate—an incredibly messy divorce from the only professional team he’s ever known.

Johnson, who has continuously expressed his displeasure with the Texans organization for the better part of the offseason, reportedly wants out of Houston. The future Hall of Famer is tracking down a Super Bowl ring and team coming off a 2-14 campaign may not be the most desirable situation for that.

So, naturally, the theories are quickly surfacing as to where Johnson could land. The 12-year receiver will most likely force a trade to get himself out of the Lone Star State and, according to numerous reports; four teams have already conveyed interest.

Now, is one of those alleged four the Panthers? Could the Panthers look into adding a premier pass catcher to strengthen their unsettled receiving corps?

Sorry to be the bearer of the ol’ bad news, but no. Andre Johnson will not be gearing up in Carolina blue at the start of the 2014 season. Here’s why:

1. Restricting cap space

Panthers General Manager Dave Gettleman probably isn’t too fond of the man that preceded him, Marty Hurney. Perhaps he owes a debt of gratitude to Hurney’s incompetence that led to his hiring. But he did leave Gettleman with little to no financial flexibility.

And despite making considerable progress since he moved into the Carolina front office, Gettleman is still feeling the effects of Hurney’s careless spending sprees.

The Panthers currently have just $5.3 million in salary cap space. Johnson, whose contract runs through the 2016 season, will impose an $11 million cap hit for the upcoming season. Obviously, there needs to be quite a bit of magic conducted to make a trade financially possible.

They could go with the ever so useful restructuring approach. This’ll be the only route the front office can take considering the prospect of a pay cut will be met with some opposition from the 33-year-old receiver. Is that, however, a journey worth embarking on for Carolina?

All signs from the team indicate they’re rather satisfied with the current talent at the position. (Yeah, who knows why that is?) Acquiring Johnson would involve some heavy lifting, something a Gettleman-run front office may not be willing to go out of their way for.

2. Does Andre want Carolina?

Sure, Johnson would be a fine fit for the Panthers—a team currently lacking a definitive No. 1 wideout. But would the fit sit well with Johnson?

As alluded to earlier, Johnson wants to win now. Is Carolina really his best option? Probably not.

Yes, they are coming off an impressive 12-4 season that brought in the franchise’s third NFC South title. And quite frankly, there could be an argument made for the Panthers being the NFL’s third best team in 2013.

That, however, may not be enough for Johnson.

This may come as a surprise, but the Panthers franchise doesn't exactly have a reputation of championship pedigree. In fact, Carolina has never put together back-to-back winning seasons in their 19-year history.

If the Texans grant Johnson’s trade request and send him to a franchise of his choosing, the New England Patriots are perhaps the clear front-runner.

Would Johnson be amicable to the idea of joining a small market team that is a year or two away from serious Super Bowl contention?

3. Gettleman’s approach

Trading for Johnson would combat exactly what Gettleman has been attempting to do in Carolina—building a winner from the ground up.

With pieces such as quarterback Cam Newton, linebacker Luke Kuechly and defensive end Greg Hardy—Gettleman is looking towards success on the strength of his young, in-house talent.

After all, he already kicked an older receiver to the curb. Why trade for another?

Contrary to the accepted belief that Gettleman released Steve Smith primarily for the monetary implications, the Panthers all-time leading receiver did not mesh with the team’s plans.

Gettleman was not too fond of Smith’s fiery, and sometimes taxing, attitude. He did not want to put him on the field with his developing franchise quarterback in the thought that it may stunt Newton’s growth. Johnson, who has become a bit outspoken of late, presents a rather similar prospect.

The Panthers drafted Kelvin Benjamin with the 28th overall selection to become Newton’s go-to guy. Even though he could mentor the 6’5” rookie, Johnson would undoubtedly put that plan on hold for a few seasons.

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