Funchess, 24, entered the 2018 season as Carolina's No. 1 receiver opposite Torrey Smith. Funchess seemed secure in that role until a 20-19 loss on Nov. 18 to the Lions in his hometown of Detroit, where he had five dropped passes.
That and a nagging back issue saw Funchess' role drop dramatically over the final six games. He sat out a loss to the Seattle Seahawks because of the back injury, then had only three catches for 33 yards over the next four games. He was a healthy scratch for the season finale at the New Orleans Saints; Panthers coach Ron Rivera said it was "just a decision I made'' to get a better look at Mose Frazier.
First-round pick DJ Moore picked up Funchess' playing time down the stretch and became the No. 1 receiver as Carolina went with a faster, younger lineup that included Moore and 2017 second-round pick Curtis Samuel.
The Panthers had high expectations for Funchess when then-general manager Dave Gettleman picked the Michigan star in the second round (41st overall) of the 2015 draft. The 6-foot-4, 230-pound Funchess was slated to play opposite 6-foot-5 Kelvin Benjamin and give quarterback Cam Newton two big targets.
Funchess was forced to be Newton's big receiver during the 2015 Super Bowl run when Benjamin suffered a season-ending ACL tear in training camp.
The Panthers traded Benjamin to the Buffalo Bills midway through the 2017 season and handed the No. 1 receiver job to Funchess, who had a career-best 63 catches that season.
Current Panthers general manager Marty Hurney's philosophy, built more around fast receivers that could stretch the field, was a stark contrast to Gettleman's. Funchess also never seemed to fit totally into the scheme of offensive coordinator Norv Turner, who took over last season.
ESPN's David Newton contributed to this report.