FanPost

To FA, or not to FA?. That is the question.

 

I’m sure by now that all true Panthers fans know about "The Purge of 2010". All is not lost, however, but I feel some activity in Free Agency or trade is needed, and soon.

The Matt Moore vs. Jake Delhomme horse has been beaten down to glue, as has the #2 WR debate, so I’m going to focus on the Defense in this article..

As a quick recap, the Panthers lost Julius Peppers when they decided not to place another franchise tag on him. They released DT’s Damione Lewis and Maake Kemoeatu along with LB’s Na’il Diggs and Landon Johnson. They also have not offered a contract to UFA DT Hollis Thomas and decided to not tender S Quinton Teal.

These moves have freed up much needed cash and disposed of long term contracts to older players, and has opened the door for the younger players on the roster to gain experience and get on the field. What we have to consider is the comparison of what was lost, what remains, and what we can expect to gain from the upcoming draft, and if they balance enough to warrant not getting involved in scavengering from other teams.

In my opinion, the secondary is pretty much set as far as personnel is concerned. If the Panthers address depth in the draft, that will be great, but the core for a very solid secondary is already in place. With that said, I’m going to concentrate on DE, DT and LB.

 Defensive End

What we lost:

Player Snaps Tackles QB Hurries QB Hits Sacks
Julius Peppers 805 23 33 10 10



Currently on roster:

Player Snaps Tackles QB Hurries QB Hits Sacks
Tyler Brayton 718 34 24 10 5
Charles Johnson 450 13 22 2 4
Everette Brown 401 14 13 7 3

 

What we can expect from the draft:

 It’s pretty much a consensus that WR is the Panther’s greatest area of need, so the earliest we could expect to address DE is with pick 78. As the league becomes more pass oriented, the need for DE has grown and will continue to grow. Here’s a recap on the number of DE’s taken each of the last 4 years before pick 78: 2006-4; 2007-8; 2008-9; 2009-11.  It’s difficult to imagine much production from the 10th-12th best DE from the 2010 NFL draft class in his first year.

 

 

 

 Conclusion:

We need to address DE through FA or trade or to acquire a player that has been released. As you know, we lost a DE who was on the field for about 90% of the defensive snaps. If you compare Pepper’s production and playing time to Johnson and Brown, we can tell that we’ll be lacking. Will increase in playing time equate to increased production for Johnson and Brown? Obviously. But it’s doubtful Taylor, Moore, and the draft pick can provide enough quality snaps to make up the difference.

Suggestions:

  • Chicago recently released DE Alex Brown (after the acquisition of Peppers) He had similar numbers to Tyler Brayton and should be able to be obtained for a similar contract. Grab him!
  • Put on a band-aid with 34 year old Vonnie Holliday with a 1 year contract to rotate.

 Defensive Tackle

What we lost:

Player Snaps Tackles QB Hurries QB Hits Sacks
Damione Lewis 777 30 19 11 0
Maake Kemoeatu 528 36 9 1 0
Hollis Thomas 411 26 4 1 0

(Ma'ake Kemoeatu stats from 2008)

 Still on Roster

Player Snaps Tackles QB Hurries QB Hits Sacks
Nick Hayden 272 13 3 1 0
Tank Tyler 360 21 3 1 1
Lewis Leonard 370 17 1 1 1

(Tank Tyler's stats reflect approximation of full season based on partial. Leonard's 2008 stats)

What we can expect from draft:

Same situation as with DE. Our first opportunity would be either pick 78 or pick 112.  Here’s a recap on the number of DT’s taken each of the last 4 years before pick 78: 2006-5; 2007-3; 2008-5; 2009-8. The Defensive Tackle class is pretty deep this year. We could be best advised to target DT at 78.

Conclusion:

Again, we lost players who were on the field the majority of the time. Ma'ake Kemoeatu is coming off an Achille's tear, the most difficult injury to come back from effectively. Ed Johnson had pretty good stats with Indy in limited playing time, and Leonard should be more productive than in 2008, if healthy, but we still need help.

Suggestions:

  • Although he's on a 2nd round tender, couldn't hurt to try to talk the Titans into a 3rd and 6th rounder for Kevin Vickerson. No sacks, but good run stopper in rotational role.
  • Maybe offer 2011 5th round pick to Washington for Anthony Montgomery. Hasn't lived up to potential but has starting experience and may need change of scenery.

Linebacker

What we lost:

Player Snaps Tackles QB Hurries QB Hits Sacks
Na'il Diggs 411 27 2 2 0
Landon Johnson 174 13 1 1 0

Currently on roster 

Player Snaps Tackles QB Hurries QB Hits Sacks
Jon Beason 1046 121 2 1 3
Thomas Davis 417 50 2 0 2
James Anderson 525 41 2 2 1
Dan Conner 78 8 1 0 0

(Thomas Davis was off to a monster start before the injury)

What we can expect from the draft:

Based on need, the earliest we could expect to address LB depth would be in round 6. We might get some situational depth at best.

Conclusion:

We are in a better situation with LB than either DE or DT. The two we lost were not particularly effective but we have special teamers among the warm bodies listed as LB, so we could still use at least one LB.

Suggestions:

Carolina has done well in the past with picking up released situational players. We could use a LB via this method this year.

*****

The Panthers have the players to put a very good defense on the field. The problem comes from lack of depth at the key positions. If the offense could sustain 7-8 minute drives for TD every series, giving the defense time to rest, we may be good with what we have. But, of course, that's not going to happen. Hopefully the offense wont be putting the D back on the field as much due to turnovers this year.

I feel like we are about 3 acquisitions away from being very solid.

We've already lost out on several good UFA's, even if they were "old", who went to teams on 2 or 1 year contracts. We also lost out on a few RFA's as well.  If we aren't going to make any further moves in FA, I hope we come up with some gems after the draft when teams are dumping players.

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