I started to post this as a response to an earlier fanpost discussing the projected roster and depth chart for the Panthers. But then, it got so lengthy (surprise!) that I figured I might as well make it a separate post, especially now that the first round of cuts have come through (though we should see one more later today).
I'm not 100% sold on some of the personnel choices I've indicated in my projected roster. Some of these guys could still land on the practice squad instead of the 53-man lineup. Also, needs on special teams could dictate a change here or there. And, once we bring in a veteran DT, they'll have to release somebody. For now, though, I think most of these position battles are over. Barring injury, I suspect the list will stay mostly intact.
So, without further ado...I give you a proposed 53-man roster...after the cut:
Right now, I'm projecting the following 53-man roster, particularly in light of the cuts announced yesterday:
I think we keep 3 QBs on the roster. Josh McCown is the probably #2. And Matt Moore is still #3. I think we try and stash Hunter Cantwell on the practice squad.
We keep three guys in the thoroughbred stable of RBs. All three have starting-caliber talent, in my opinion. Deangelo is the veteran starter. Stewart is still there to spell him. And Goodson gets on the field as a wild card in certain formations. Goodson is also our WR5 and KR. I believe Decori Birmingham is still eligible for the practice squad, so we probably try and sign him there one more year for insurance. And if Jamall Lee has an international player exemption, we probably try and keep him there, too, if he's willing to forego playing time in the CFL to stick with an NFL team.
We keep two FBs for the first time in forever. Technically, Nick Goings was our emergency backup FB last year. We also counted on him to contribute in a major way on special teams. Tony Fiammetta now fulfills that role. And he's more than capable of backing up Hoover before eventually supplanting him when Brad retires. Fiammetta could also see some action as another TE, if one of the others gets injured.
We carried 5 WRs last year with one of them being Mark Jones who primarily served as our KR/PR guy. With Mike Goodson handling KR duties and either Kenny Moore or Captain Munnerlyn available for PR duties, I think we can shake loose a roster spot here and keep just 4 this time. Essentially, Steve Smith and Muhsin Muhammad start. It's debatable whether Dwayne Jarrett or Kenny Moore get the WR3 slot. I'm thinking Moore based on production, but it could be situational. If they inactivate Jarrett at any point during the season, it won't be a good thing for his career. Meanwhile, if we find ourselves in need of a fifth or sixth WR, we should still have Mike Goodson and even Dante Rosario who could fill in for us.
I think we keep all three of these guys. At first, I thought Dante Rosario might become the odd man out, but he impressed in the Ravens game again. He makes another decent fill-in at WR5 in certain formations because of his speed. Of course, Jeff King stays with us at least one more year, unless we re-sign him again in the off-season. Meanwhile, Gary Barnidge may see increased playing time to prepare him to take over for King as the primary starter next season. For now, King gets the starting nod for his superior blocking skills. But, if as I suspect, we release him next year, it becomes all that more important to retain Rosario as Barnidge's future backup.
We kept 9 O-linemen on the roster last year. This mix seems more than decent to me. The starters are the same as last year, obviously. The depth is what matters now and, fortunately, there's a lot of versatility among everyone. Bernadeau would be the second-string center, though Geisinger could fill-in there, too, if needed. Geoff Schwartz will continue as Jeff Otah's backup. Travelle Wharton would kick out to fill-in at LT if Jordan Gross goes down. And that leaves Duke Robinson, Geisinger, and Bernadeau as backup guards where needed.
Julius Peppers, Tyler Brayton, and Damione Lewis are the no-brainers at their respective positions. I believe Marlon Favorite becomes the "favorite" fill-in for Ma'ake Kemoeatu over Nick Hayden for now. But Hayden should stay in the rotation along with Corvey Irvin. Everette Brown and Charles Johnson serve as backup DEs, but on passing downs, we'll clearly see some formations using Peppers and Brown on the edges with Brayton and Johnson in the middle. As soon as we bring in a heavy, veteran, space-eating DT, I suspect Hayden or Irvin might get cut. If we can stash either of them on the practice squad (probably Irvin rather than Hayden), I think we'd probably try and do that.
This grouping is a lot smaller than last year when we carried 9 LBs on the roster. I'm projecting only 7 this year. The first six guys could probably start for most teams. Jeremy Leman makes the squad because of his performance in training camp and the preseason. One of the LB spots from last year goes to keep Tony Fiammetta as an extra FB. Our extra LBs last year helped on special teams more than defense. And I expect Fiammetta will do the same thing, but he'll just be backing up the offense instead. I assigned the other LB spot from last year to the DBs, just because we need the extra secondary help...and one of those DBs could really help us on special teams a bit more than another LB.