After one of the more dramatic free agent cut days in team history (black & blue Friday?) the Carolina Panthers are obviously looking at things a little differently then we were thinking a week ago. The Panthers now have a few holes to fill and will probably fill them with a combination of 'value-priced' FA's (how's that for being PC?) and rookie draft picks. As usual too the Panthers will go after the highest rated UDFA's. So here's the revised 'needs' list
Top Positional Needs
Any free agent or players drafted at the following positions could see significant snaps or even start next season:
The Panthers actually need two quarterbacks. A veteran free agent could slide into the #2 spot and a rookie draft pick can compete with Hunter Cantwell for the #3 spot. Since I've never known Furney to draft a QB early I bet they wait until the 4th round or later to get one.
#2 Wide Receiver
The Panthers don't seem interested in re-signing 2009 starter Muhsin Muhammad, who at 37 might just hand up the cleats.The Panthers do have Dwayne Jarrett so if better options are not brought in Jarrett will finally get his chance to be the #2 WR. The Panthers do have Dexter Jackson and Kenny Moore coming back so there is depth. But my hope is they use one of their first two draft picks to get a talent like Mardy Gilyard, Jordan Shipley or Jacoby Ford. In fact they could bring in a couple rookie WR picks and have them make the roster.
Kick Off Returner
A stud kick returner would essentially be handed the Panthers kick off duties provided he didn't put the pig skin on the turf like last season's collection of pretenders.
The Panthers do not appear interested in re-signing last season's starter Keydrick Vincent so we have an open competition between two young players. We have 3rd year player Mackenzy Bernadeau who subbed well last season and then we have 2nd year player Duke Robinson. My money is on Bernadeau but he seems a little smallish for RG. Maybe LG Travelle Wharton will move over to RG and Bernadeau slides in a LG. There's a chance the Panthers plug in a FA here but they seem to be avoiding that at the moment. If a value-picks slides to the Panthers a rookie could also make the roster at G.
Kick Off Specialist
The recent word is Rhys Lloyd is heading to the Vikings so the Panthers will be in need of a kicker that can put the ball in the end zone consistently. Lloyd was pretty good at it but there has to be more guys out there like him. I don't think the Panthers are looking to replace John Kasay just yet so there is a certain need.
more analysis after the jump...
If a value-pick from these positions fell to the Panthers they could fill key back-up roles and possibly get into a rotation that provides a few but steady snaps per game throughout the season.
If Tyler Brayton gets signed elsewhere then this need will move to the top list easily. Yes we have guys that can slide in the two vacated starting spots but the overall talent level beyond that is questionable at best. The Panthers have already started looking at the available FA's such as the Jets Marques Johnson which makes more sense then simply adding another rookie. If Brayton returns then he and Charles Johnson will start but other wise the Panthers need a couple additions at DE.
With the release of Damione Lewis and Maake Kemoeatu I think a DT could get into the rotation if a player like Corvey Irvin struggles to get his game back. Again, getting in the rotation would be the best scenario.
This position could hit the Top Needs list if the Panthers should lose Richard Marshall to another team. Even if he stays though I'm predicting Sherrod Martin ends up at FS by the end of training camp leaving open the possibility of a rookie CB getting in the dime packages. With today's pass happy offenses that could be a significant amount of snaps in a game depending on the opponent.
With the release of Landon Johnson and Na'il Diggs the Panthers will need to add a LB or two. Dan Conner and James Anderson will battle to replace Diggs at SLB but there is still room for a FA and a rookie. I can't say who has the inside track at this point as Anderson seems better in coverage whereas Conner is a tackling machine. Don't be surprised if the Panthers use their 1st pick on a LB that falls to them.
A young speedy guy who's not afraid to go over the middle could get a few snaps per game. Dexter Jackson will get a look in TC but otherwise the Panthers need a reliable target in this spot.
Low Level Needs
Players picked at these positions could make the roster but might not get a jersey week to week as they ride the inactive list.
If Keydrick Vicnent doesn't return then the Panthers will have an open spot to fill and might look for a true tackle versus a C/G combo as they have a couple of those already. If Rob Petiti is not brought back then a talented left tackle prospect could end up the primary back-up to Jordan Gross.
Special Teams Ace
A special teams gunner or tackling ace of any kind could make this roster and be a staple on all phases of the Panthers special teams.
No Obvious Needs
The remaining positions appear to have established depth that should be sufficient going into the 2010 season.
RB, FB, C, TE, P, PR, MLB, WLB, SS, FS
So in summary I'm thinking DE has gone from a low level need to a mid-range need where a value-pick could not only take Peppers roster spot but get in the rotation but I'm not seeing a starter in the 2nd round unless a real surprise falls in the Panthers lap.
If you disagree I want to hear it!