Free agent talk is heating up and the Panthers are in the thick of it. As I'm sure you know (and may be sick of hearing about) they have two high profile free agents that other teams would like a crack at, DE Julius Peppers and OT Jordan Gross. Here's an interesting take on that:
Jordan Gross, OT, Carolina Panthers
There has been some thought that Carolina can't afford to keep both Gross and Peppers, especially considering they're arguably the best free agent talent at "premium" positions. The reality is that Carolina likely can't keep Gross, Peppers and quarterback Jake Delhomme, who will have a reported $11 million cap number next season. Smart money says the Panthers franchise Peppers and get a deal with Gross done before free agency begins, then either cut Delhomme or dramatically rework his deal.
The Panthers will have its greatest leverage with Delhomme, who after coming off that stinker of a game may be willing to take a restructured deal that keeps the other key players on the roster. I can just imagine how this board would light up if the team went forward with paying Delhomme $11M next season. QB Matt Moore would cost a mere fraction of that.
The only other notable Panther free agent is TE Jeff King. King's role in the passing game was dramatically reduced as he only notches 21 receptions in 2008 after putting up 46 last season. His main role was blocking and for the most part he seemed to do a good job of it. Since the Panthers don't have any other blocking TE's I don't see King going anywhere.
If you're interested in seeing what other free agents may be available around the NFL here's a good site.
Some other intriguing names that would look good in Carolina blue:
Albert Haynesworth, DT, Tennessee Titans
The big daddy of this offseason's free agent market, Haynesworth will land somewhere near the richest deal in NFL history for a defensive player. The Titans used their franchise tag on him last season, and he added the same "no second-tag" stipulation as Suggs, so he's going to be on the market. His age (he turns 28 in June) and ability to dominate make him one of the best defensive free agents in league history. His prior anger issues - and the penchant for some defensive tackles to get lazy after signing big deals - make him a little scary for teams. But he'll still cash in huge and leave Tennessee.
I can't see him coming to Carolina but damn it would be sweet. How about that other pesky DE position? I'm not sure DE Charles Johnson is the answer but I'm positive Tyler Brayton is not.
Bertrand Berry, UFA, Arizona Cardinals
Berry finished the regular season with five sacks and a pair of forced fumbles for the Cardinals in fourteen games of action. He may not be the most coveted potential free agent at his position, but he's definitely effective when he's healthy and playing his best. He'll be looked at as a role player on the market and there's a decent chance that the Cardinals will move on.
Other Defensive Linemen
Jonathan Babineaux, UFA, Atlanta Falcons
Rocky Bernard, Seattle Seahawks
Kevin Carter, UFA, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Chris Canty, UFA, Dallas Cowboys
Shaun Cody, UFA, Detroit Lions
Jovan Haye, UFA, Tampa Bay Bucs
Tank Johnson, UFA, Dallas Cowboys
John Thornton, UFA, Cincinnati Bengals
Marcus Tubbs, UFA, Seattle Seahawks
Any thoughts on these guys?