Carolina Panthers Trade for Pittsburgh Steelers Pro Bowl Wide Receiver Diontae Johnson

The Carolina Panthers are having a busy opening to free agency. According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the Pittsburgh Steelers are trading one-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Diontae Johnson to the Panthers in exchange for cornerback Donte Jackson and a swap of late-round picks.

The news follows yesterday's blockbuster trade with the New York Giants. The Panthers parted ways with two-time Pro Bowl edge rusher Brian Burns in exchange for second and fifth-round picks. The Giants promptly signed Burns to a massive five-year, $150 million extension.

Johnson is a quarterback-friendly wide receiver who does his best work close to the line of scrimmage, which should help the Panthers. They stumbled to league-worst marks in yards per game (265.3), points per game (13.9), and net yards per passing attempt (4.2) under rookie quarterback Bryce Young last season. Johnson should provide an easy outlet when plays break down, but he's not a game-changer: His 56.7 receiving yards per game over his career have come at an underwhelming 6.8 yards per target. Still, he should help the Panthers offense climb out of the league's basement and closer toward mediocrity.

As for the Steelers, they gain a respectable veteran cornerback in Jackson. He's 28 years old and has nabbed 14 interceptions over 80 appearances for the Panthers. He came into the league with blazing speed, clocking a 4.32 40-yard dash at the 2018 NFL Combine. Unfortunately for the Steelers, he's also coming off his worst season as a pro: He allowed a 107.7 passer rating on 67 throws in his direction in 2023.

Overall, this trade speaks to wildly differing evaluations of Johnson. The Steelers were 28th in points scored last season at 17.9 per game, and they've clearly decided Johnson won't be an asset to recently signed quarterback Russell Wilson. Meanwhile, the Panthers are banking on the possibility that he will be a boon to Young, an undersized, elusive quarterback with a propensity to extend plays, just like Wilson. They better be right. Young's future as a franchise quarterback depends on it.  

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