The Carolina Panthers move quickly. Just days after rookie first-round pick Jaycee Horn broke his foot in Thursday’s win and was ruled out indefinitely, the Panthers are reportedly acquiring Jaguars cornerback C.J. Henderson in a trade, per Ian Rapoport. Carolina is sending tight end Dan Arnold and a third-round pick to Jacksonville in return for Henderson and a fifth-rounder.
It’s rare to see a sophomore so quickly make his way to the trade block, but that’s what happened here. Henderson was selected with the ninth overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft but failed to get off on the right foot in Jacksonville.
For Jacksonville, it’s tough to describe this as anything other than gross mismanagement of resources. Unfortunately, this isn’t the only recent example of incompetence in their front office, but to give up a No. 9 overall pick from roughly 18 months ago for a depth tight end and a future third-round pick is nothing short of blasphemy.
Henderson played in just eight games as a rookie due to a groin injury. Henderson totaled 36 tackles, one interception, six passes defensed, and one forced fumble while experiencing the typical highs and lows that come with being a rookie.
Trade rumors involving Henderson first began swirling just a little over a month and a half ago. Why Jacksonville would be willing to essentially give up on a top-10 pick less than two years into his pro career is a bit of a mystery, but current Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer and general manager Trent Baalke weren’t the ones who drafted Henderson in the first place.
For Carolina, Henderson undoubtedly becomes a starter on the outside, and pairing him with Horn and former LSU standout Donte Jackson gives the Panthers one of the more exciting cornerback trios in the league. For a regime that clearly values lockdown cornerbacks (they drafted Horn over a potential franchise quarterback), the acquisition of Henderson on the boundary is a priceless addition for Matt Rhule and Phil Snow's defense. Henderson should further improve a Carolina defense that has size and speed at every level.
While Horn continues to nurse his injury, look for Henderson to start opposite Jackson. It’s worth noting that Jackson is set to hit free agency in 2022 and is due for a hefty raise in pay. Whether Carolina is able to retain Jackson’s services will reveal itself in due time, but Carolina is well set up at the position regardless. Carolina’s immediate outlook at the corner position is in excellent shape and the future looks equally as bright.
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