After bouncing around the league over the past four years, Damiere Byrd will head back to where his NFL career began. The Panthers signed the veteran wide receiver Friday.
Byrd, 30, has been with five different teams over the past five years. But his most extended stretch with one NFL franchise came from 2015-18, when the former UDFA played for Carolina. While the Panthers have new decision-makers in place now, the Ron Rivera-era addition will return to compete for a spot on Frank Reich‘s team.
Byrd spent last season with the Falcons, with whom he averaged a career-high 20.6 yards per reception (13 catches, 268 yards). Prior to that, the 5-foot-9 pass catcher suited up for the Bears (2021), Patriots (2020) and Cardinals (2019). Byrd will follow Adam Thielen and DJ Chark as Panthers receiver additions this offseason.
Carolina moved on from Byrd by non-tendering him as a restricted free agent back in 2019. Byrd had not made much of an impact to that point in his career, catching just 12 passes over his first four years in the league. Byrd’s time away from the Panthers improved his receiving chops. He contributed as a tertiary target for each of his past four teams, with the most notable work coming in New England. Working with Cam Newton again, Byrd amassed a career-high 604 receiving yards for the 2020 Patriots. That production — and the 4.28-second 40-yard dash time Byrd clocked as a prospect — has undoubtedly contributed to other teams taking fliers on the South Carolina alum.
Although Byrd has undoubtedly picked up some contacts around the league during his journeyman phase, he has not worked with Reich, GM Scott Fitterer or any of Reich’s top offensive staffers. Byrd also has not played much special teams since leaving Carolina; the 175-pound pass catcher has not topped 10 ST snaps in any of the past four seasons. He did make cameos in kick- and punt-return roles in Carolina but not much in the years since.
The Panthers still figure to be on the radar for receiving help in the draft, but Byrd stands to compete for a roster spot over the next several months. Terrace Marshall, Laviska Shenault and Shi Smith also stand to factor into competition for supporting-cast gigs behind the two free agent acquisitions.