Ex-Patriots WR Reveals Reason for Joining Rebuilding Panthers

Damiere Byrd

Getty Former Patriots wide receiver Damiere Byrd could catch passes from the top quarterback taken by the Carolina Panthers in next week's NFL Draft.

One-time New England Patriots wide receiver Damiere Byrd could catch passes this fall from the top quarterback taken in the 2023 NFL draft.

Byrd, who played with the Patriots in 2020, recently signed a one-year, $1.3 million contract with the Carolina Panthers. Earlier this offseason, the Panthers obtained the No. 1 pick in the draft via a trade with the Chicago Bears. The Panthers will likely pick a quarterback such as Alabama‘s Bryce Young or Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud on April 27.

“I think it was just a thing that everything aligned,” Byrd said about returning to Carolina via Panthers.com. “Charlotte has always been my home. We never really left. No matter where we were, we would always come back here in the offseason. It was kind of aligned.”

The Panthers signed Byrd as an undrafted free agent out of South Carolina in 2015 before stints with the Arizona Cardinals in 2019 and Patriots. He spent 2021 with the Bears and 2022 with the Atlanta Falcons.

With the Patriots, caught 47 passes for 604 yards and a touchdown in 16 games played. He played for the first team of the post-Tom Brady era that year.

Byrd notably caught passes from former Patriots and Panthers quarterback Cam Newton that season, their fourth season together between Carolina and New England. However, Byrd spent most of his first Carolina stint on the practice squad aside from 17 regular season games where he caught 12 passes for 129 yards and two touchdowns.

Byrd became a regular receiver in Arizona before he joined the Patriots. He likewise played 17 games for the Bears and 14 for the Falcons during his one-year stints. He has 130 receptions for 1,689 yards and seven touchdowns in his career.

Receiver a Likely Target for Patriots in Draft

When the Patriots pick at No. 14 next week, it likely could be a receiver.

The Patriots lost key talent at receiver in the free agency departures of Jakobi Myers to the Las Vegas Raiders and Nelson Agholor to the Baltimore Ravens. JuJu Smith-Schuster signed with the Patriots after a season with the Kansas City Chiefs, but the need remains significant. DeVante Parker and Kendrick Bourne return as the top two receivers from last season, and neither had more than 35 receptions, 540 yards, or three touchdowns.

“You’re hoping there at 14 you can get a pretty good player,” Patriots director of player personnel Matt Groh told reporters on Tuesday, April 18. “I’d say throughout the first round, there’s an old philosophy: You’re taking a player in the first round, you’re hoping that player is going to come in and make an impact for you.”

Patriots Could Go Receiver Later in NFL Draft

Groh acknowledged that draft boards don’t always come together as planned, and he said the Patriots could grab a receiver later.

“Look, I think if you’re looking for a guy, it’s not just a first-round guy,” Groh said. “There’s a lot of good wide receivers in this draft, and there’s a lot of good wide receivers in this league that weren’t just first-round picks. So you can find these guys throughout the draft. Obviously, if you’re taking one in the first round, you better have some conviction about him.”

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