The time that the Off-Season starts is usually a topic of debate for me. Whether it begins when the Super Bowl concludes, your team gets kicked out of the playoffs, when teams start to franchise their best players or during Free Agency, I've never quite figured it out.
Yesterday marked the first day of the two week period where teams could designate their franchise players and start hardcore resigning the players they wish to keep. I guess it's fitting to mark the start of the Off-Season with this date. First off, We can expect to see the team to attempt to sign Jordan Gross to a long deal and deal the franchise tag to Julius Peppers. That will give him a hefty 17 million dollar contract for one year, and the Panthers will quickly muck about trying to find a team that will trade for him so that we could free it up for other players.
The problem is getting Gross to sign that contract. We've had to use the tag on him the last year, so they've obviously had trouble signing him to a new contract. I have no doubt he would try to draw the tag again this year if Julius Peppers wasn't so determined to leave for another team. A situation like this leaves Gross in position for a big contract, and we may even have to overpay him in order to keep all of the offensive pieces in place for another high scoring season.
Expect cuts to start happening very soon as well. Ken Lucas is probably going to go, Marshall is ready to step in and Lucas is due a big paycheck that the Panthers don't want to pay. Last year's results of free agency Landon Johnson and DJ Hackett round off the list of big names on the cutting block. Jeff King is out of a contract, but he might be resigned depending on how ready the team thinks Dante Rosario will be on the offensive line as a blocker. Mark Jones is expected to make a return as a solid if unspectacular punt returner. Geoff Hangartner can also expect to be resigned, he has the flexibility to play many positions on the O-Line. John Fox loves that, so he will make his return as a key backup if we can get him for a good price.
As players come and go, I look forward to an interesting two weeks.
And in other news, Moose needs to remember to pay his credit cards.