Let's start with what Fox Sports has listed as the Panthers Top 3 needs at the moment:
1. Defensive end: It's still uncertain what will happen with franchise player Julius Peppers, but either way the Panthers need to add a pass rusher. It's unlikely another team will sign Peppers to an offer sheet (that would cost them two first-round picks) but it's very possible another team would be willing to work out a deal for less. This might stretch for a few weeks, but if the Panthers do the deal they'd like to have it done before the draft. Even if Peppers stays, the Panthers still need another pass rusher. If he goes, they really need one.
If and when Peppers leaves DE suddenly becomes our biggest need. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Panthers execute one of their patented draft day trades to move up and get the guy they want. The only draw back is that this draft is not loaded with edge rushers so they may actually have to look for value here in the later rounds.
2. Defensive tackle: The Panthers don't have much depth behind starters Damione Lewis and Maake Kemoeatu, so look for them to add a mid-level veteran free agent to the mix. Last year they signed Darwin Walker and Ian Scott. Scott got hurt in training camp and was cut. Walker faded as the season went on and won't be re-signed.
No one doubts this is a huge need and many mock drafts have the Panthers taking a DT early. On the FA side, the rumor is the Panthers are interested in Dewayne Robertson:
Foremost among that group, according to two sources, is former No. 4 overall pick Dewayne Robertson, recently cut by Denver. The Panthers have told his representatives they're interested (they're allowed to since Robertson was cut), but not for the first few days.
This could be a good move but I would still want them to add a 1st day draft pick to the mix. An inside push is critical to the Tampa 2 defense so the Panthers have a lot of work to do here.
3. Offensive line depth: The Panthers cut Jeremy Bridges on Wednesday (Feb. 26) and with Geoff Hangartner (signed with Bills) and Frank Omiyale (signed with Bears) gone, the Panthers have lost their depth on the O-line. They will look to add a few younger players here and they did draft two guys last year in the seventh round -- tackle Geoff Schwartz and guard Mackenzy Bernadeau -- although neither played in 2008.
This didn't seem like much of a need until the Panthers made their cuts and other teams pounced on our unsigned FA's. I can almost guarantee the Panthers will spend another late round pick or two on offensive line depth. I also wouldn't be surprised to see them bring Bridges back at a lower price if he doesn't get any looks elsewhere. I will be curious to see how last year 7th round picks Schwartz and Bernadeau progress up the depth chart (if at all).
I'm thinking our #4 team need is Cornerback. It's pretty safe to say the only reason CB Ken Lucas is still on the roster is the Panthers are still looking to move him or maybe package him in the Peppers deal. There is no other reason to keep him on the roster since they have already made it clear they want to move him. I don't see the Panthers spending an early pick on the position but they will add some depth for the nickel-back position in case CJ Wilson can't make that move. Given the Tampa 2 relies on good tacklers versus ‘shut down' corners I expect Gamble and Marshall to be the starting corners with maybe a FA being signed to play the nickel this season.
5th Team Need is WR. I'm not convinced the Panthers are more than two deep at this position. Though I would like to think either Dwayne Jarrett, Ryne Robinson or Jason Carter are quality slot receivers none are proven over a season and none could fill in adequately should one of the top 2 go down. I'll tell you though; I would have a hard time signing off on a high pick for a WR when there are so many other pressing needs on defense. But if one of the top speed guys was there it could pay big dividends on the offense.
So let's hear it Panther fans. I'm sure some votes for a QB will be one that gets discussed. Agree? Disagree? Check my new poll in the right sidebar on this issue as well.