With four weeks in the books, NFL teams have a general idea of what their needs are at this point in the season. While it’s important not to overreact, four games is a solid amount of data. For example, it’s pretty clear that the Los Angeles Rams need an edge rusher. The trade deadline will be quickly approaching and it wouldn’t be surprising if teams are already beginning to make inquiries on players that they may have interest in at the deadline.
Sitting at 2-2, the Rams are in an interesting spot. They could try to be sellers at the deadline and still remain competitive as they are now. Contrarily, general manager Les Snead has never been afraid when it comes to making the big trade to take the Rams to another level.
In the case that the Rams are sellers at the deadline, one player that they could potentially trade away is Van Jefferson. Jefferson has called down the depth chart this season behind Cooper Kupp, Puka Nacua, and TuTu Atwell. He’s on the final year of his contract and at this point, it’s hard to see the Rams bringing him back on an extension.
On Tuesday, it was reported by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport that the Carolina Panthers could be in the market for a wide receiver.
According to Rapoport,
“The Panthers already have been active on the trade front this season, sources say, calling several teams about a potential trade for a starting wide receiver.”
Jefferson is an interesting option for the Panthers and may actually be a fit for their offense. This past offseason, Frank Reich brought in Thomas Brown to be his offensive coordinator. Brown had spent the past three years in Los Angeles. There is some familiarity with Jefferson when it comes to Brown.
The connections don’t stop there.
Jefferson’s father, Shawn Jefferson, is the wide receivers coach for the Panthers after spending the past few years with the Arizona Cardinals who played the Rams two times per season.
NFL reporter Jordan Schultz added to the report saying that the Panthers aren’t just looking for a wide receiver, but are looking for a number one caliber of receiver.
Sources: The #Panthers are not only looking to trade for a wide receiver, but they want a No. 1 caliber guy. This is their top priority right now.— Jordan Schultz (@Schultz_Report) October 3, 2023
Why? Because the organization is ALL IN on Bryce Young - the player and the person. They love him and want to support him. They… pic.twitter.com/490YeGW5ks
Obviously, Jefferson doesn’t necessarily fit that description. The Rams wide receiver only has one season with over 800 yards and that was during Cooper Kupp’s historic triple crown year. The second-round pick out of Florida has never shown that he can be a top guy in the offense.
Without Kupp for most of last season, Jefferson only had 369 yards. Without Kupp to begin this year, he’s been out-produced by Puka Nacua and TuTu Atwell. In all honesty, Jefferson should have been the top option as the most experienced player in the offense at the wide receiver position.
While the Panthers may want a number one caliber wide receiver, the major question is whether or not they can afford that. To trade up to the number one pick to select quarterback Bryce Young, the Panthers gave up their first-round picks in 2023 and 2024 along with second-round selections in 2023 and 2025. That doesn’t mention that number one wide receiver DJ Moore was also part of that trade package.
The point in mentioning that is, the Panthers don’t have a lot of assets that they can give up for a top wide receiver. Looking at players that might be available, the Cincinnati Bengals aren’t trading Tee Higgins for less than a first-round pick. Higgins is on the final year of his contract and hasn’t signed an extension. Jerry Jeudy has one more year on his rookie contract, but again, is he a player that the Denver Broncos would part ways with for a second-round pick?
When it comes to Jefferson, the fit is there for the Panthers and the price is in the area of what they would be able to afford. Jefferson is on the final year of his contract and could possibly be had for a third or fourth-round pick as that’s what the Rams would receive as a compensatory selection.
It’s also important to look at this from the Rams’ perspective. The only way that they would likely give up Jefferson to the Panthers is in a trade package that includes Brian Burns. Burns is on the final year of his deal and hasn’t signed an extension with the Panthers. This is after the Panthers turned down a major trade offer from the Rams for Burns last year.
While Jefferson won’t be the first or second option in the Rams offense, he’s still a valuable piece when Kupp returns. Let’s assume that the Rams’ plan when Kupp returns is to get back to a 2018-19 version of their offense. That receiver group included Kupp, Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks, and Josh Reynolds. Even if the Rams would have wanted more out of Jefferson, he fits the Reynolds mold as someone who is a vertical threat and also win in the middle of the field in intermediate routes.
Despite having a good training camp, Demarcus Robinson only has 17 offensive snaps this season. Tyler Johnson is on the Rams’ practice squad. If the Rams were to trade Jefferson, they sacrifice good depth at the wide receiver position. What if Kupp re-aggravates his hamstring again later in the year? That's a scenario that the Rams need to be prepared for.
Unless the trade package makes sense, it’s hard to see the Rams rushing to the phones to trade away Jefferson.