NFL free agency is well underway. After spending last season with the Detroit Lions, wide receiver DJ Chark is expected to find a new home this season. Which teams would be the best fit for the veteran wideout?
DJ Chark Free Agency Best Fits
Each free agent class is different, having its own strengths and weaknesses. This year’s class is one of the weakest at wide receiver in recent memory. As a result, players like Chark may be more highly coveted than they would in a year with more high-end talent available.
Chark entered free agency as the third-highest-ranked wide receiver in our Top 100 NFL Free Agents list. Combine that with a rookie WR class that pales in comparison to last year’s, plus the number of receivers that have already signed, and we could see Chark get a pretty nice contract from a team that needs him.
We are about one week into free agency, and as teams scoop up other players, the best fits for Chark continue to change. But even though several pass catchers have been signed, there are several teams that could use him to upgrade their WR2 position.
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Chark’s rookie season was incredibly underwhelming. By all accounts, he should’ve been a bust. But he managed to buck historical trends in his sophomore season, catching 73 passes for 1,008 yards and eight touchdowns. Unfortunately, that season proved to be the exception, not the rule. Every other campaign of his has been marred by injury or severe underperformance.
Whether due to choice or lack of suitable offers, Chark did not sign a multi-year deal last year, and he wound up on the Lions on a one-year contract.
In the 2022 season, Chark played in 11 games, as injuries once again reared their ugly head. During those contests, he occasionally flashed his upside but was never a consistent source of production.
Regardless, there’s no denying Chark is a talented receiver. In a weak WR class with many receivers already off the board, he’s as good as it’s going to get for the teams still looking to upgrade at the position. So, which teams provide the best fit for Chark in free agency?
After Releasing Adam Thielen, the Minnesota Vikings Could Target Chark
NFL teams seldom make trades within their division, but this isn’t trading. Chark is free to sign anywhere he pleases. It just so happens that a Lions NFC North rival in the Minnesota Vikings provides one of the best fits for him.
The Vikings almost always have at least two high-quality wide receivers. Over the past 30 years, Minnesota has had the likes of Cris Carter, Randy Moss, Percy Harvin, Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, and Justin Jefferson. Most of the time, they’ve had two of these guys at once.
For the past three seasons, Jefferson and Thielen have been one of the best WR duos in the NFL. Well, at least for the first two. The 2022 version of Thielen took a step backward.
Sadly, at 33 years old, Thielen is done. That was apparent after the always-reliable veteran pass catcher was suddenly… not.
Last season, Thielen caught 70 passes for 716 yards and six touchdowns. Those numbers were the worst of his career (not counting 2014 and 2015, when he barely played). As a result, the Vikings unsurprisingly cut the costly Minnesota native, creating an opening at the WR2 position — one Chark could fill.
The Vikings take the crown as the best fit for Chark in free agency. They need a WR2, and Chark would mesh quite well as the stretch Z to Jefferson’s everything.
Additionally, Minnesota has the worst salary cap situation in the league right now. They can’t afford to do anything without maneuvering cap hits to make deals work.
Signing Chark at a reasonable salary might be their best option to fill their WR2 spot for 2023.
The Dallas Cowboys Could Use Chark Opposite CeeDee Lamb
The Dallas Cowboys are traditionally quiet in free agency. They’ve been a bit more active this season, but there’s been no big signing.
While Chark wouldn’t exactly be a big signing, he’s still a bigger name than the Cowboys typically add on offense during free agency.
Michael Gallup struggled mightily last season. Whether due to limited ability or his ACL tear recovery, he looked more like a part-time WR3 than an every-down WR2. With Gallup not the answer and Noah Brown now in Houston, the Cowboys need another wide receiver, and Chark would be one of the best fits for that job.
He could be a much-needed downfield threat opposite CeeDee Lamb. With the fourth-most cap space remaining as of Friday, Dallas could afford to pay Chark more than most other teams. They also may not have to. While Chark expressed interest in returning to Detroit, the fact that we haven’t heard any reports about negotiations or an offer speaks volumes.
When asked about his future, Chark said, “Going into this year, I’m trying not to even worry about how it’s going to happen. I feel like I’m going to be where I’m supposed to be. If that’s Detroit, that’d be great, because I got some real good friendships, and I like it there. It’s really good, but it’s a business. You never know.”
There’s a good chance the Cowboys can provide Chark with a starting role on a good offense and the most lucrative contract available. An incentive-laden one- or two-year deal makes the most sense.
The Carolina Panthers Need NFL-Caliber Wide Receivers Like Chark
It’s no secret that 2023 will be a rebuilding year for the Carolina Panthers. They tried the veteran quarterback route for a couple of years, but it’s time to actually draft Cam Newton’s replacement. Yes, it’s been that long since they had a quality NFL starter.
After securing the first overall pick in a trade with the Chicago Bears, the Panthers are going to take a quarterback. Even if they trade down, as some reports indicate they might consider doing, they will still take a QB.
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Even without playoff aspirations, the Panthers still need to field a moderately competitive roster. It would do their rookie quarterback no favors if his top three receivers are Terrace Marshall Jr., Shi Smith, and Laviska Shenault Jr.
The Score’s Jordan Schultz reported that Chark visited with the Panthers yesterday. If they sign him, he would instantly be their best wide receiver by a very wide margin. Carolina also has enough cap space to give him a deal perhaps similar to what Jakobi Meyers and JuJu Smith-Schuster secured (three years, $33 million).
Given the Panthers’ depth chart, they might provide the best chance Chark has at showcasing his skills. Of course, he would get superior QB play from other offenses. But on the Panthers, Chark may be featured more prominently, depending on who else they bring in at the position.