Louis Murphy was a spare part in Oakland. He was a speed option on a team with plenty of speed options, and a young, athletic receiver on a team with plenty of young, athletic receivers. He has potential, but that potential likely wouldn’t have been allowed to blossom in the Bay Area.
He fit the classic definition of an expendable player at a loaded position, and as the days tick down to training camps opening later this week, his tenure as a Raider was likely ticking towards its conclusion too if he wasn’t traded elsewhere. Had he stayed in Oakland buried in the muddled middle of a WR depth chart that includes Denarius Moore, Darrius Heyward-Bey, and Jacoby Ford, his opportunities would have been limited, and he likely would have been released sometime during training camp and forced to join the line of camp casualties who are quickly behind in their navigation of a playbook elsewhere.
That’s the cold, cruel reality of NFL land if you’ve missed a significant portion of a season due to an injury as Murphy did last year (he missed five games with a lingering neck ailment), allowing others to push him lower on the depth chart. That won’t be a problem in Carolina.
Murphy has reportedly been traded to the Panthers, according to Yahoo’s Jason Cole. Oakland’s haul–a word that likely won’t be appropriate, even a little bit–hasn’t been announced yet, but we’re going to venture out on our brittle tree branch and predict a late-round pick, likely a fifth or sixth.
So for a pleasant change, the Raiders–a team that held only two non-compensatory picks prior to this year’s draft–will likely be acquiring a pick instead of gnawing off their limbs to stockpile athletic, speedy dudes who look super awesome in their underwear (not that there’s anything wrong with that).
In Carolina, Murphy will be useful, or at least he might be, whereas his chances of being little more than an occasional home run threat in Oakland seemed meager. Powered by the uniquely mobile Cam Newton who rocks rhymes and beleaguers points in his spare time, the Panthers embraced the growing tight end trend last year, with Greg Olsen and Jeremy Schockey on the other end for 995 of Newton’s 4,051 passing yards (24.6 percent). But at wide receiver, there was only slightly more than nothing beyond Steve Smith.
Smith finished fifth overall with 1,394 receiving yards, so he also easily led the Panthers. How easily? The runner-up was 781 yards behind (Brandon LaFell had 613 yards). Despite Smith’s dominance, most of his yardage was accumulated through either deep balls or long runs after a catch, as proportionately his reception total was low considering his yardage. Smith was one of only two receivers in the top ten last year to finish with less than 80 receptions, making the Panthers a team that threw the ball moderately despite Newton’s cannon, averaging 32.4 pass attempts per game (24th).
Murphy’s role now should he choose to step up and accept it is to become a secondary deep option for Newton, and he’ll likely be given an opportunity to challenge LaFell and start opposite Smith. Failing that he’ll settle in as the Panthers’ No. 3 wideout, becoming an ideal weapon lurking down field as Newton rolls out, and scans for a deep target.
UPDATE: The trade has been confirmed, but Oakland’s return is still somewhat of a mystery, with Adam Schefter only reporting that it’s an undisclosed late-round pick, which sounds like a more than adequate price for Murphy.
More importantly, the Panthers continued their Monday dealing with a trade that could have far more significant implications. Offensive lineman Jeff Otah has been traded to the Jets for a conditional pick.
The former first-round pick’s immense talent is matched by his frail and weak bones/muscles, as he’s played just four games over the past two years. However, if he can stay healthy for a significant chunk of the season, Otah will be a sizable upgrade over Wayne Hunter at right tackle. Mark Sanchez was sacked a career-high 39 times last year, and Hunter was responsible for projectiles thrown at television sets around New York.