How Panthers’ Adam Thielen helped Carolina find versatile receiver in trade

The Panthers made a headline-grabbing trade for Kansas City Chief Ihmir Smith-Marsette on Tuesday morning just hours ahead of their 4 p.m. final roster deadline — and head coach Frank Reich singled out a particular veteran who helped Carolina make it happen.

That player was Adam Thielen.

And how’d Thielen help?

By providing what Reich called “inside info.”

“We had some inside info because he was in Minnesota with Adam Thielen,” Reich told reporters Tuesday after his practice. “So we called Adam and said, ‘Adam, tell me about this guy.’ You know what I mean? We got inside information from another player. That is always helpful.”

Smith-Marsette landed in Carolina after the Panthers and Chiefs swapped conditional 2025 seventh-round picks.

The 6-foot-1, 185-pound receiver notched nine receptions for 195 yards and two touchdowns through the Chiefs’ three preseason contests — enough to not only catch Reich’s eye, but also enough to affirm what Thielen saw from the 24-year-old receiver when they played for the Vikings together in 2021.

Thielen told The Charlotte Observer that Smith-Marsette is “an electric player.”

“I saw it in the preseason with him with the Chiefs but, you know, I got to see it first-hand in Minnesota,” Thielen said. “Get the ball in his hands, he can make plays.”

Smith-Marsette won’t just be a pass-catcher, although the Panthers could use some depth there right now. The player Reich described as being “a good route runner” — and being versatile enough to play all three positions — will likely be the Panthers’ sixth or seventh wide receiver in a room that is riddled with injuries: DJ Chark sat out of practice again Tuesday after tweaking his hamstring last week. Terrace Marshall returned to practice Tuesday after missing a handful because of back tightness, and Laviska Shenault was there, too, but in a no-contact red jersey.


The Newark, New Jersey, native and Iowa alum will also likely furnish some reliable hands and some explosiveness in the return game (punts and kickoffs, Reich said). Running back Raheem Blackshear is really the only player with notable return experience on the team, and that was exacerbated with receiver Damiere Byrd getting an injury settlement and released.

Reich also said he liked Smith-Marsette’s personality — one that could be discerned by a quote of his that made the rounds on social media Tuesday morning.

When asked by a reporter if he could describe his personality on the field, Smith-Marsette responded in youthful enthusiasm: “I’m one of the baddes m-----f-----s in the league.”

“You guys will see, he’s got a pretty exuberant personality,” Reich said. He then chuckled, “Which is good. We like that energy.”

Carolina Panthers head coach Frank Reich and the team pay tribute to the victims of the tragic fires in Maui prior to action against the Detroit Lions on Friday, August 25, 2023 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC.
Carolina Panthers head coach Frank Reich and the team pay tribute to the victims of the tragic fires in Maui prior to action against the Detroit Lions on Friday, August 25, 2023 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC.

Other takeaways from Panthers roster cut day

Matt Corral is safely on the team. Perhaps thanks to the newly instituted QB3 rule, or maybe because of a solid and healthy preseason, the Panthers’ 2022 draft pick made the final roster cuts. He told reporters right before the announcement that he felt confident he’d return to Carolina but didn’t know for sure until the roster was finalized at 4 p.m.

Donte Jackson, a Carolina veteran, called cut day one of the “toughest days” in the league every year. “This job is based on relationships, you know what I’m saying? And getting to know guys from all different places in the world. ... It’s just one day you don’t get used to.” The Panthers’ 53 roster was finalized at 4 p.m. Tuesday; it started Tuesday with 79.

Reich acknowledged that no one knows what to make of the Panthers defense yet. His response? “Good! Mission accomplished.” Brian Burns, Derrick Brown, Shaq Thompson and Justin Houston all didn’t play much or at all this preseason — a quartet who are expected to be one of the more productive bunches on the team this year.

Reich doled out an important reminder Tuesday about cuts: “Obviously, a lot of the guys that we’re going to let go today are going to be back here on the practice squad. A lot of the guys that we let go today are going to end up starting games for us this year. It’s just going to happen every year in the NFL because of injuries, and it’s a long season. We look at it, when we get our 53 plus the 16 (practice squad) ... as far as our coaches are concerned, this is our squad.”

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the amount Derrick Brown played this preseason. He played 13 defensive snaps in Week 1. The error has been fixed.