With the season completely OVER and the football hang over in full effect, the big question for Panther fans is, "what do we do to get back to the post season?"
I think we will agree that this team needs help in the areas of defensive end and safety on defense. On offense, the work is a little more extensive as they may look for help at offensive tackle, wide receiver, and running back.
How would I attack these issues? Glad you asked.
In free agency, I think offensive tackle, wide receiver, safety, and defensive end has to be addressed.
Paying free agents top dollar is not something the Panthers have done since Dave Gettleman took over as general manager. While they don't have to abandon that philosophy, they need to open up that wallet a little bit more to get some much needed help on the O-Line.
With the NFL Draft class of offensive tackles being what it is and not many top notch player coming out of college, I believe they have to address this position in free agency. Top tier left tackles command a lot of money but I believe there are some solid left tackles on the market that can be had, but you don't have to break the bank.
It just so happens that teams are starting to release some pretty good tackles this week to improve their salary cap situation.
LET'S GO SHOPPING GETTLEMAN! Not at Tiffany's as he once famously said, but with over $47 million in cap money, it's time to get a little closer to the fine jewelry establishment.
Just this week, Ryan Clady of the Jets, Brandon Albert of the Dolphins, and Kelvin Beachum of the Jaguars were all released. Names like Andrew Whitworth of the Bengals, Matt Kalil of the Vikings (yes brother of Panthers Center Ryan Kalil), and Riley Reiff of the Lions were already floating on the market.
I don't think any of these players will break the bank, but can come in at a cap friendly number and be solid addition to the O-Line.
With Ted Ginn currently a free agent and this team perhaps needing to refine their approach to the passing game, wide receiver is a must. A slot receiver more than anything else is what this team is lacking. And if Ginn doesn't resign, speed on the outside would be a must.
The Panthers have one of the best tight ends in the league in Greg Olsen and a potential monster on the outside in Kelvin Benjamin. But someone in the slot may take this passing attack to the next level.
The name most fans will go to first is Victor Cruz of the Giants who was released by the team earlier this week. He is a slot receiver and one of the best WHEN HEALTHY and that is the key.
After outstanding rookie season in 2013, he was having another great one in 2014 before suffering a terrible knee injury late in the year. He tore is right patellar tendon and would miss the entire 2015 season after hurting his calf while rehabbing the knee.
This past season, he only had 39 catches for 586 yards and 1 TD.
Could the Panthers sign him to a short, "show me" type of deal at a great number and give Cruz the chance to show the rest of the league he is still one of the best? They could but he may have that chance with a lot of other teams in the NFL.
If it is not Cruz, no worries. There will be a wealth of talent on the market at WR including the likes of Kenny Stills of the Dolphins, Terrelle Pryor of the Browns, DeSean Jackson of the Redskins, Pierre Garcon of the Redskins, and Alshon Jeffrey of the Bears if he doesn't get franchise tagged.
This is a need based on depth. They didn't have much last season at this position.
The good news at this level is Kurt Coleman can and does play both free and strong safety and Tre Boston got better as the season went on in his first full season as a starter.
A splash name would be Eric Berry of the Chiefs that is if KC does not franchise tag him.
Berry will probably command high dollar to land in the Queen City as he is one of the best safeties in the NFL. So while fans dream big, I won't believe it until I see it. So some names to watch would be DJ Swearinger of the Cardinals, Jahleel Addae of the Chargers, Tony Jefferson of the Cardinals or veteran Quintin Demps of the Texans.
I could also see the team possibly drafting a young safety, but a free agent wouldn't hurt their cause.
It doesn't seem like it but the Panthers still finished 2nd in the NFL last season in sacks with 47.
But an upgrade on the outside with a great edge rusher would make this defense that much better.
The dream name on the market is Jason Pierre-Paul of the Giants. Once again, that is if JPP even makes it to the open market as the Giants can franchise tag him.
But there are some other options that could be even cheaper than JPP like Jabaal Sheard of the Patriots, Julius Peppers of the Packers, or Chris Baker of the Redskins.
If the Panthers can get Mario Addison back, that would be huge and if Charles Johnson comes back on a team friendly deal, that would be great too. But a free agent in this spot is something that is needed.
Free agency starts March 9th so it won't be long before we find out what the plan is for the Carolina Panthers.
In the past, fans have had to watch other teams wheel and deal on the first day-- heck, the first week of free agency while the Panthers stood on the sideline. That was before Gettleman worked this team out of salary cap purgatory. I think this year, they will be in the mix and sign a few of the big names to get this team back on track. But don't expect Gettleman to go crazy as they will more than likely franchise tag defensive tackle KK Short which could cost the team around $13.5 million.
But here is something to think about. A wise man once said this about the NFL, "if you aren't getting better, you are getting worse." They CAN'T do what they did last off season which was pretty much NOTHING. Time for the Panthers to get better by adding talent in free agency-- not just the draft.
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