2019 will mark the Carolina Panthers’ 25th season as a member of the NFL. Over the past quarter-century, the team has had countless stars, fan-favorites, and all-time greats play for the franchise. With that being said, below is the Panthers’ all-time starting offense. For purposes of this article, kicking specialists will be included.
Panthers All-Time Starting Offense
QB: Cam Newton
After only six seasons in the NFL, Cam Newton already had set the record for the most passing yards in Panthers history. It took him just over five seasons to set the mark for the most passing touchdowns in franchise history. Since being taken with the top overall pick in 2011, Newton has consistently been one of the NFL’s most dangerous and dynamic quarterbacks. His combination of size and speed make him difficult to bring down, and his arm strength rivals anyone to ever play the game.
The 2015 NFL MVP has made the Pro Bowl three times and has been named an All-Pro once. It’s also worth noting that he holds the franchise record for rushing touchdowns and has run for more scores than any other quarterback in NFL history. If Newton can continue to develop as a passer toward the end of his career, he has a chance to go down as one of the game’s greatest signal-callers ever.
RB: Jonathan Stewart
For seven years, Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams were one of the most fearsome running back pairs in the league. In fact, in 2009, “Double Trouble” became the fifth pair of teammates to ever rush for 1,000 yards in the same season. However, only one can earn this position, and Stewart has the edge for the all-time team. In 10 seasons with Carolina, Stewart ran for 7,318 yards and 51 touchdowns, both of which are franchise records for running backs.
Coming into the league, Stewart already had a reputation as a physical runner, and that carried over to the NFL. Stewart is perhaps the most punishing runner in franchise history, and had the speed to compliment his power. After playing the 2018 season with the New York Giants, Stewart signed a one-day contract in April to retire a Panther. He made the Pro Bowl once and scored the Panthers’ lone touchdown in Super Bowl 50.
TE/FB: Greg Olsen
While this position could have gone to a fullback (Brad Hoover) or tight end, giving this position to Greg Olsen only seems right. From 2014-2016, Olsen was one of the most dominant tight ends in the game, becoming the first tight end in NFL history to ever record three-straight 1,000-yard seasons. Over that span, he also made three Pro Bowls. In eight seasons with the team, he ranks third all-time in franchise receiving yards and has 37 touchdowns, which ranks fourth in team history.
On top of being a standout receiving tight end, Olsen has also been a solid blocker throughout his career. Wesley Walls could be a candidate for this spot, but it’s hard to imagine Cam Newton having the same amount of success without Olsen acting as his security blanket. The 34-year old is the Panthers’ best tight end in team history, and likely one of the game’s best ever at his position.
WR1: Steve Smith
Of all the players to ever suit up for the Panthers, Steve Smith has done it more times than any other non-kicker. All total, Smith played 182 games for the franchise across 13 seasons. During his time with Carolina, he racked up 12,197 receiving yards–almost 3,000 more than anyone else. On top of that, he led the team in receiving for eight-straight seasons spanning 2005-2012. He recorded 1,000-yard seasons seven times for the Panthers, and scored 75 times, including 67 touchdown receptions. He also added 10 more playoff scores.
Perhaps Smith’s most iconic play was a 69-yard, game-winning touchdown in double overtime to defeat the St. Louis Rams in the 2003 playoffs. Smith made five Pro Bowls and two All-Pro teams with the Panthers. He will be inducted into the Panthers’ Hall of Honor later this season.
WR2: Muhsin Muhammad
Ranking second in team history in both receiving touchdowns and receiving yards is Muhsin Muhammad. MOOOOOSE played in 155 games for Carolina, and was with the team from 1996-2004, and then again from 2008 until his retirement in 2009. Muhammad was drafted by the team in only its second season, and retired with the team right before the Newton era. Over that time, he consistently produced for the Panthers, highlighted by his 1,405-yard, 16 touchdown campaign in 2004. He made two Pro Bowls and one All-Pro team with Carolina and averaged 841 yards per season with the team.
WR3: Ted Ginn Jr.
Originally brought to Carolina mainly as a return-specialist, Ted Ginn Jr. carved out a fairly significant role for himself in 2013. In his first season with the Panthers, he caught for 556 yards and 5 touchdowns, including the game-winning score versus the New England Patriots on Monday Night Football.
Following 2013, he left for the Arizona Cardinals for one season before returning to Carolina for 2015 and 2016. It was Ginn’s second stint with the team that earned him a spot on the all-time team. Over those two seasons, Ginn racked up 1,649 all-purpose yards, as well as 14 scores, including a career-high 10 touchdowns in 2015. Ginn was a key part of the Super Bowl run, and was the team’s second-leading receiver, behind only Greg Olsen. Ginn’s deep threat ability was one like Carolina never had and has yet to replace. His ability to stretch the field and come up with clutch plays is a trademark of his time with the Panthers, and one that makes him one of the franchise’s most important receivers ever.
LT: Jordan Gross
Jordan Gross played all 11 of his NFL seasons with the Panthers and proved to be perhaps the best offensive tackle in team history. After being drafted in the first round in 2003, Gross immediately was inserted into the starting lineup and started Super Bowl XXXVIII as a rookie. He made the Pro Bowl three times during his career and was named an All-Pro once. On top of his impressive on-field performance, he was a very durable player for Carolina. From 2003-2013, Gross played in (and started) 167 of 176 possible regular season games. Like Smith, Gross will be inducted into the Panthers Hall of Honor later this year.
LG: Travelle Wharton
Despite signing with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2012, Travelle Wharton never played an NFL snap for any team but the Panthers. In nine seasons with the team, Wharton played in 115 games and started all but four. He and Gross were anchors of the Carolina offensive line for nearly a decade, and although he never received much recognition, he was a dependable offensive lineman who started every playoff game for the Panthers from 2004-2013. After growing up in South Carolina, playing college ball at the University of South Carolina, and playing professionally for the Panthers, Wharton is as homegrown as the come.
C: Ryan Kalil
Being the most decorated offensive lineman in franchise history, Ryan Kalil’s spot on the all-time team is locked in stone. Kalil played his entire career with Carolina and started 145 times. Among offensive linemen, only Gross played in more games for the Panthers than Kalil did. He made the Pro Bowl three straight years from 2009-2011 and made the NFL’s all-star game five times in total. He was also named to the All-Pro team twice in his career. Throughout Kalil’s career, Cam Newton made it clear just how important Kalil was to the team’s success. He’s arguably the franchise’s best lineman ever and was a key part of the Panthers’ Super Bowl run in 2015. After 12 seasons, Kalil decided to officially retire following the end of the 2018 season.
RG: Trai Turner
After only five NFL seasons, Trai Turner has already earned a spot on the Panthers’ all-time team. In fact, he’s already closing in on Kalil as being the franchise’s most decorated lineman. He has played in 71 games for Carolina since coming into the league in 2014 and has made the Pro Bowl in four of his five professional seasons so far. He has started every playoff game the Panthers have been in since he was drafted, and is regarded as one of the best interior offensive linemen in the league. Turner already ranks fourth in team history in terms of approximate value among offensive linemen, and he is the top-ranked guard. The fact that he’s only 26 and will be with Carolina for at least three more seasons makes Turner a no-brainer for this position.
RT: Chris Terry
After being drafted in the second round in 1999, Chris Terry spent the first three and a half years of his career with the Panthers. During his time with Carolina, Terry started 57 of a possible 58 games and made the NFL’s all-rookie team in 1999. Despite good performance on the field, much of Terry’s career was overshadowed by court cases and drug busts. Unfortunately for Terry (and the Panthers), his off-field issues led the team to cut him mid-way through the 2002 season.
K: John Kasay
For the first 16 seasons of the Panthers’ existence, John Kasay was the team’s kicker. Kasay has made more than twice as many field goals than anyone else in team history, and is the franchise’s all-time leader in points scored. Nobody has played more games for the Panthers than Kasay, and only Graham Gano has been more accurate (min. 30 attempts). He has scored more than twice as many points as any other Panther and owns three of the top-five highest scoring seasons in Carolina’s history.
P: Jason Baker
Jason Baker spent the final 7 seasons of his career with the Panthers, working as both a punter and kickoff specialist. While with Carolina, Baker punted for over 25,000 yards, which shattered the previous franchise record. Nobody has punted more times than Baker, and only three others have kicked for a higher average yards per punt (min. 100 kicks). In 2006, he led the league in punt yards and ranks inside the top-50 all-time in career punt yards.
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