1. Brad Hoover FB
Don't get me wrong, in spite of his mistakes during the season Brad Hoover had this job locked up. Then in round 4 of the NFL Draft the Panthers picked up Tony Fiammetta, whom most scouts had declared the best fullback in the draft. He's a solid player with strong blocking, rushing, and pass catching abilities. I believe that if he impresses in camp that the Panthers will go for the younger, cheaper talent. Brad Hoover will be 33 in November, and by cutting him the Panthers will save 540k against the salary cap.
2. Tyler Brayton DE
With Everette Brown being taken in the 2nd round as a result of a trade, Tyler Brayton is going to have to put his rear in gear in order to keep his spot. Unless he pulls off a miracle in training camp and turns himself into a modern day Rocky, the Panthers are going to go with the smaller rookie in an effort to turn him into another Dwight Freeney.
3. Richard Marshall CB
Richard Marshall will start Week 1 with Ken Lucas gone, but other teams are not going to be impressed with him right off. Until he proves himself, he's going to be a guy with a big x on his back. Teams will throw to his side of the field early and often, and I wouldn't be suprised if the team yanks him in favor a bigger corner like Sherrod Martin if he struggles on a consistant basis. We might even see the two corners splitting time on the field, who knows?
4. Na'il Diggs OLB
Here's where things start to get a bit iffy, but irregardless this is a Top 5 article. We have arguably 5 starting caliber linebackers. Jon Beason and Thomas Davis are two young locks right off the bat, and Na'il Diggs is your old, experienced veteran. The two wildcard players that could be starters are 2nd year player Dan Connor, and Landon Johnson. Dan Connor has a chance to rise up and prove to everyone that he is the next Dan Morgan (minus the injuries). If he can do that, he just might take down Na'il Diggs and secure his spot. He might have done so last year, but he was injured for the season in Week 3 so we never got a chance to see if he could do it late in the year.
Dan Conner is pretty much the successor of Na'il Diggs in the future, but it's a matter of time. Diggs is still a tremendous player and he still produces, it's only a question of whether he can maintain it or not over a 16 game schedule. If he cannot, then Connor might sneak in there late in the year and get some playing time.
5. Dante Rosario TE or Muhsin Muhammad
Arguments can be made on both sides. Moose is getting old and Dwayne Jarrett is in his 3rd breakout year, so he might rise and take control. On the other hand TE Gary Barnidge was known as a great pass-catcher coming out of college, and if his skills have matured in the next level we might have another target on the field for Jake Delhomme. I'm going to open this one up for a poll. Your thoughts please!