Sizing Up the Panthers Free Agent Class of 2011

As we all know, the Panthers have a number of important decisions coming up next year.  Not including the guys on the practice squad, the Panthers have close to 12 free agents contracts expiring next year.  And I wanted to spend a little time to discuss the situation the situations surrounding each of these players.

Matt Moore - Matt Moore came into the picture as the starter after a terrific finish to last year's season in place of Jake Delhoome, but the recent injury to his right shoulder with a torn labrum not only makes his resigning questionable, it could sideline his entire career.  Just to get an idea about the seriousness of this kind of injury, here's a few names to think about:  Rich Gannon, Tim Couch, Anthony Wright, Jay Fiedler, Chris Redman, Giovanni Carmazzi, Ryan Leaf and Chad Pennington.  All of these ex-quarterbacks suffered a torn labrum and were unable to come back afterward.  Pennington also tore his rotator cuff as well and after rushing back 4 months later, re-injured it.

The list of quarterbacks who came back from a torn labrum?  So far there have been only 3:  Drew Brees, Brian Griese, and Kelly Holcomb.  Griese was never as good as he was after the injury, but Holcomb was able to make a good comeback and we all know that Drew Brees can still play.

So what does this mean for Moore?  The odds are certainly stacked against him. Combined with his poor performance this year (whether you blame him for it or not), it's unlikely that he'll get a starting job anywhere. The one silver lining, as I mentioned on CSRadio, is that if David Carr can still find a job in this league, Matt Moore should be able to find one.

My take:  Even if he's able to come back, I don't expect the Panthers to resign him.  The needs just don't fit. If we are going to commit to a young quarterback (whether it's Clausen, Pike, or someone in the 2011 draft), it'd be better to pick up a veteran who has had more starting experience to help with their development.

DeAngelo Williams - I've made it no secret that DeAngelo Williams is probably my favorite Panther.  He is an elusive, powerful, and very fast running back who now holds the following Panthers records:  career rushing total (4,211), single season rushing total (1515), single season rushing touchdown record (18), single season total touch down record (20).  He has been compared to running back greats such as Barry Sanders, O.J. Simpson, and Jim Brown.

To me, resigning Williams and paying him like the top 5 back (because he is) is simply a no brainer. Some people worry about the tread on his tires though, as running backs tend to have the shortest NFL careers of any position.  However, consider this...  DeAngelo only has 851 careers through this season (5 years).  For comparison, Adrain Peterson has 1095 through 3 years, Chris Johnson has 787 through 3 years, and Steven Jackson has 1720 carries through 10 years.  If Jackson can still produce out a high level after 10 years, DeAngelo certainly has the potential to.

My take:  Resign him to a 5 year deal, at least.  We have the space and this kind of talent isn't the type you find everyday.

Bonus Take:  Sign Jonathan Stewart to a similar deal, locking both players up for the foreseeable future. It's expensive, and a bit of a luxury, but both are proven backs who deserve it.

Jeff King - An excellent blocker with decent hands, Jeff King has been nothing if not consistent.  He has been serviceable in the run game and in the pass game when needed (logging over 100 catches for 880 yards in the past 4 seasons).  The problem we seem to have with tight ends though is that they are all very specialized and King is by far the best blocker of the trio, but doesn't have the same kind of hands as say Rosario.  But you have to wonder sometimes if it's ability or opportunity that robs our TEs from being playmakers.

My take:  Dependable players like this just tend to stick with the Panthers (see Brad Hoover and Nick Goings).  I doubt he will command a great deal of money from the team and I'm not sure it would be worthwhile to go sign a more expensive tight end.  However, with Rosario also being in the mix, it might be better to sign one guy who can fill both roles instead.

Dante Rosario - See above.

Ryan Kalil - Our Pro-bowl center who continues to get better.  It was dumb luck more than anything that we took Kalil in the 2007 draft.  At the time, we already had a capable center in Justin Hartwig, but as Kalil slipped into the 2nd round, the Panthers pulled the trigger and he's become a stalwart on our offensive line since 2008.

My take:  No reason not to resign him.  We certainly don't have anyone capable behind him.

Charles Johnson - This may not be the breakout year that Johnson was hoping for, but he has been good through the 2010 season.  So far, he has recorded 3.5 sacks and logged 26 tackles in his first year as a starter and has definitely been our most reliable defensive end thus far.  The real problem at this position though is that there is no one behind him to take his place.  Everette Brown has yet to show the flash from the preseason and Greg Hardy is a rookie, although he has shown some flashes.  Also, if we lose anyone from our defensive line, I would say Tyler Brayton would be a casualty before Charles Johnson.

My take:  Another guy that we should resign simply because he's dependable and probably won't command a lot of money in the market.  Right now, he's the better of our two starting defensive ends and unless we're thinking about letting him walk to start either Brown or Hardy next year opposite Brayton, I don't see why we shouldn't resign him.

Ed Johnson - Defensive Tackle is an awkward position for us at the moment.  We have no clear starters, and it seems like almost everyone is goin to be a free agent within the next two seasons.  Ed Johnson I can't really make up my mind about.  His rookie year (2007), he played exceptionally for the Colts, registering 41 solo tackles a sack and a forced fumble.  Legal troubles sidelined his career and he never did anything since then until coming to Carolina where he now has 11 tackles, 2 passes defended, and an interception.

My take:  There are probably going to be better free agents to resign next year that could have an immediate impact.  I'm glad that Johnson was able to resurrect his career, but I'm not sure keeping him is that essential.  I would say let him walk.

Nick Hayden - The other DT hitting free agency, I kinda put him in the same boat as Ed Johnson.  Neither one of them are really standing out.  Through 6 games, Hayden has registered 12 tackles and he got the nod to start ahead of Ed Johnson.  Whether we resign him or not largely will depend on whether or not he can make the most of his time as a starter.  He did help limit Steven Jackson to 59 yards, but we were gashed pretty badly against the Saints last week, and they don't even have their top 2 running backs.

My take:  Like with Johnson, there will probably be better free agents available who can make an immediate impact and in that event, I think Hayden can probably walk.  If there's no one to resign, he'll probably be a cheap body and hopefully we get someone in the draft to eventually replace him.

Thomas Davis - Sad news of the week was that Davis would not be making a return this year.  On the other hand, it was reported that the Panthers intend to resign him and so it's just a question about how much and for how long.

My take: It's practically a done deal already.  Davis will be back next season.

James Anderson - The bright spot of our 2010 season has been the break out year by James Anderson.  With Jon Beason moving over to the WLB, teams have been running more plays to the SLB and Anderson has stepped up to the plate and hit a home run.  How's this for a linebacker setup:  MLB Jon Beason, WLB Thomas Davis, SLB James Anderson.  Pardon me while I wipe off the drool...  He does make Davis a little bit expendable, but since it's already known that the Panthers plan to resign Davis, there's no worry about that.

My take:  He should be another lock to resign.  He's having an amazing year and may in fact be our defensive player of the year.  No reason not to resign him after the performance he's shown us this year.

Bonus take:  While we're at it...  Give Beason an extension to lock up our linebacker corp for the next 5+ years.

Jamar Williams - We traded Chris Harris to pick up Jamar Williams with the idea that he would compete for a start at SLB.  But unfortunately, Jamar Williams was injured during training camp and hadn't made much of an impact.  James Anderson has solidified his role as the SLB.  Add to the fact that Dan Connor is under contact through 2013 and that Eric Norwood is a rookie...  Jamar Williams becomes expendable.

My take:  With the depth we have at linebacker (once everyone gets back), there's not much room for Jamar Williams here.  He's been injured off and on, which hasn't helped him much, and I think he can get a chance to start elsewhere.  I'm guessing he won't be a Panther next year, but I hope someone will give him a chance.

Richard Marshall - Our other starting cornerback splashed onto the scene in 2006 as a rookie and made parting with Ken Lucas much easier.  He may not be the shutdown corner that is Darrelle Revis, but I think people are quick to judge him.  Our defensive scheme makes the job of the cornerback much easier when we can get consistent pressure on the quarterback; pressure that simply hasn't been consistent this year in any fashion.  That makes Richard Marshall's performance look worse that it probably is.  Sure, he has his occasional blown coverages (as does Gamble), but it's hard to argue with some of his production numbers.  He's logged 13 INTs over his career here, (6 in the last 2 years) and has helped anchor a pass defense that has been in the top of the league for the last 2 years now.

My take:  I think we should keep him.  I'm not sure if he's worth "Chris Gamble" money (I'm not sure if Gamble is worth "Chris Gamble" money...) but we should make every effort to resign the guy.  If we don't someone else will.  The real question here is whether or not he wants to stay here.  He was very unhappy about his contract situation this off-season and to be honest, I don't really blame him.  Hopefully the two sides can come to a consensus.

That wraps up the Free Agent out look for the off season.  What are your takes on the various people we have hitting the market?  I know there may be a bit of contention with guys like Richard Marshall, but other than that what are your thoughts?

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