Panthers HC Matt Rhule: CB C.J. Henderson ‘an opportunity that came open’

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Given the sudden and damaging impact of the injury to rookie Jaycee Horn, the Carolina Panthers needed a quick fix. But Monday’s trade for Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback C.J. Henderson isn’t quite that according to head coach Matt Rhule.

Right off the top of his presser this afternoon, Rhule gave his overall impression of the deal. He believes Henderson, who was apparently a prospect they had their eye on previously, has an intriguing amount of proverbial clay the team is eager to mold.

“Very excited to have him come be a Carolina Panther,” Rhule said. “Went through the process last year of getting ready for the draft evaluating him. He’s someone we seriously considered at our pick. I think he has tremendous upside. And excited to get him here and help this team.”

In last year’s draft, Carolina opted for Auburn Tigers defensive tackle Derrick Brown, evidently over the Florida Gators corner, with 2020’s seventh overall pick. Henderson was then selected by Jacksonville just two spots later.

The team’s pre-draft interest in Henderson is what makes this trade, again, more than just that quick fix in Horn’s absence. Instead, as Rhule alludes to, they see this move in the bigger picture.

“To me, this isn’t like a ‘Hey, bandaid, get-him-in-here type of deal. It’s an opportunity that came open. And we took it.”

Rhule then added that there’s no rush to necessarily force a fit with Henderson—schematically or in terms of preparedness—right away, further indicating their long-term hopes of the trade.

And, surely, they’ll have some time to bring those hopes along given Henderson’s age and contract. The 22-year-old has three years left on his first professional deal, with the third in 2024 open to a potential franchise tag.

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