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 Chark?
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 higher-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, and we could see Chark get a pretty nice contract from a team that needs him.
Now that we are already several days into free agency, the list of teams that would be best fits for Chark is starting to shrink. Still, there are several teams on which Chark would be a sizable upgrade at their WR2 position.
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Everything about Chark’s rookie season suggested he’d be a bust. Then, in his second year, he caught 73 passes for 1,008 yards and eight touchdowns. Unfortunately, that season proved to be the outlier. Every other season of his has been mired by injury and severe underperformance.
Last year, Chark was either unable or elected not to sign a multi-year deal and ended up playing for the Lions on a one-year contract. Chark participated in 11 games, again dealing with injuries. During those contests, Chark occasionally flashed his upside but was never a consistent source of production.
Regardless, Chark does possess talent. In a weak WR class, and one where a number of similarly situated free agent receivers have already been signed, he’s undoubtedly one of the best ones available. So, what teams are the best fit for Chark to sign with in free agency?
The Vikings Still Need a WR2 After Releasing Adam Thielen
NFL teams rarely make trades with their rivals. But there’s nothing they can do when players jump ship in free agency. Going from Detroit to the Lions’ NFC North rival Minnesota Vikings still feels like the best fit for Chark.
It’s been a long time since the Vikings haven’t had 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.
For the past three seasons, Jefferson and Thielen have been one of the best WR duos in the league. Well, at least for the first two. The 2022 version of Thielen didn’t really count.
Sadly, at 33 years old, Thielen is done. That was apparent after the always reliable Thielen was suddenly…not.
Last year, Thielen caught 70 passes for 716 yards and six touchdowns. It was easily the worst season of his relevant career. As a result, the Vikings unsurprisingly cut Thielen, creating a hole at the WR2 position — a hole Chark could fill.
The Vikings are my choice as the best fit for Chark to sign with in free agency. They need a WR2, and Chark would mesh quite well as the stretch Z to Jefferson’s “do it all.” 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.
Chark Would Fit in Nicely Opposite CeeDee Lamb on the Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys traditionally don’t make big splashes in free agency. But I wouldn’t exactly call Chark a big splash.
Coming off a torn ACL last season, Michael Gallup underwhelmed as the team’s WR2. He may be best suited for the WR3 role. Last year, that role belonged to Noah Brown, who is now in Houston.
The Cowboys need that downfield threat opposite CeeDee Lamb. They also simply need some more bodies at the position, and Chark would be one of the best fits for that job. 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 cannot only provide Chark with a starting role on a good offense but can also pay him the most.
The Panthers Need Explosive Players 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 from the Chicago Bears, the Panthers are going to take a quarterback. Even if they trade down — as some reports indicate they might consider — they will still take a QB.
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Despite that quarterback being a rookie and the Panthers not really competing this season, he will still need receivers. Right now, Carolina has the worst group of pass catchers in the NFL. Under no circumstances can they seriously go into the season with Terrace Marshall Jr., Shi Smith, and Laviska Shenault Jr. as their top three options.
The Score’s Jordan Schultz reported that Chark is visiting with the Panthers today. If they sign him, he would instantly be their best wide receiver. Carolina also has enough cap space to give him a deal possibly similar to what Jakobi Meyers and JuJu Smith-Schuster got (three years, $33 million).
Given the Panthers’ depth chart, it might be 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.