JUNE 15: Addressing the matter at Panthers minicamp, Anderson said he was merely “thinking out loud” and was not seriously considering walking away, via Panthers.com’s Darin Gantt (on Twitter). Two years remain on the wideout’s current Carolina contract.
JUNE 12: Panthers wide receiver Robbie Anderson — who announced this offseason that he would be changing the spelling of his first name from “Robby” to “Robbie” — tweeted yesterday that he was contemplating retirement. “Ain’t gone lie Thinking bout Retiring,” Anderson said (via Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk). Anderson later deleted the tweet.
It’s unclear if Anderson is truly considering leaving the game, or if he had something else on his mind. With mandatory minicamp scheduled to take place this week, there may be more clarity in that regard in short order. For now, he is expected to reprise his role as a starting boundary receiver opposite D.J. Moore.
In 2020, his first year in Carolina, Anderson posted career-highs in targets (136), receptions (95), and receiving yards (1,096). The deep threat’s yards-per-reception rate (11.5) was down considerably from the averages he posted as a member of the Jets, but that could be explained by the fact that the Panthers deployed Teddy Bridgewater — whose deep ball is not a strength — under center that season. On the flip side, Anderson’s catch percentage, which never exceeded 58.8% during his time in New York, skyrocketed to 69.9% in 2020, thereby demonstrating that he could work intermediate routes just as well as deep routes.
The Panthers handed Anderson a two-year, $29.5MM extension shortly before the 2021 season got underway, but in a campaign filled with inconsistent quarterback play from Sam Darnold, Cam Newton, and P.J. Walker, the former UDFA took a major step back in almost every statistical category. Anderson was still targeted 110 times, but he caught just 53 of those targets, for a career-worst catch percentage of 48.2%. His 519 receiving yards and 9.8 yards-per-reception were also career lows.
Perhaps attempting to buy low, the Patriots engaged the Panthers in trade talks earlier this offseason. Nothing materialized on that front, although Carolina — which subsequently added Rashard Higgins in free agency — was reportedly more than willing to listen to offers.
The club and Anderson later agreed to a restructure for cap purposes, whereby $11.765MM of Anderson’s 2022 salary was converted to a signing bonus. As Smith observes, Anderson would have to pay back that signing bonus if he were to retire, so it seems unlikely that he will actually hang up the cleats this year.
However, the 29-year-old’s future in Charlotte beyond 2022 is certainly up in the air. Although he is under contract through 2023 as a result of the aforementioned extension, his cap charge for the 2023 season spikes to $21.7MM from just under $11MM this year. If he can return to his 2020 level of performance, player and team could work out another extension, and if he cannot, the Panthers will almost certainly release him.
Speculatively, Anderson’s retirement chatter might have stemmed from discontent with the Panthers’ QB situation. The club was unsuccessful in its Deshaun Watson pursuit — which may not have been a bad thing, given recent developments — and currently has Darnold, Walker, and third-round rookie Matt Corral as the top three passers on the depth chart. Carolina continues to be linked to Browns passer Baker Mayfield, but Anderson seems to be decidedly against a potential Mayfield acquisition.