At 2-8 I can understand why some Panther fans are already mocking next year's draft. I get drawn into it myself in spite of still having six games left in this season. Yet before we get to the draft we will actually have a true free agency period this year. Of course, we will have some new rules to go by, some of which we aren't even aware of but it will be more than last offseason for sure.
I'm hoping to see GM Marty Hurney get aggressive in FA and plug some of our holes with veterans. Don't get me wrong, I'll take some prize rookies for sure but will instead hope they can watch and learn a bit before getting thrown into the fire.
With that said I found a site listing the 2012 free agents and then looked at which fit the typical Marty Hurney free agent target. Namely,
- A player not considered one of the top two FAs at their respective position
- A player with some upside and under age 30
- A player that fits the scheme
- Bonus: Familiarity with our scheme
So how aggressive can we be? We don't know for sure how much salary cap we will have next offseason but our best estimate at the moment is we will have enough cap space to land three starter quality players. So in order of importance here are my preferred targets at the moment for what I see are the five key positions of need, in order of importance.
There is no denying the need for added beef options up front and I doubt adding another rookie to the mix will be good enough soon enough. That's where we bring in another key veteran to rotate with Ron Edwards up front:
Aubrayo Franklin (NO) - NT - It was little alarming that Franklin received as little interest as he did this offseason, receiving only a one-year deal from the Saints. He probably won't even garner as much attention as he did last season after moving to a less glamorous 40 front for interior linemen. Depending on his production this year, he could be a nice under-the-radar acquisition.
Another option would be to acquire yet another Charger, after the jump...
Antonio Garay (SD) - NT - Just as quickly as they lost Jamal Williams, they've replaced him at nose tackle with another Pro Bowl caliber player. It's crucial to the defense that they retain Garay to anchor the defensive front.
If you really consider the probability of Thomas Davis returning to his prior form before next July after two ACL's injuries to the same knee (3rd overall) you realize it's not a great bet. Better odds would be to bring in a top FA LB:
Stephen Tulloch (DET) - Tulloch left the Titans to sign a one-year deal with the Lions. Given their hot streak and the energy given off by their defense, it seems more than reasonable that Tulloch will want to remain in Detroit. Considering the linebacking unit is a weakness for the team, it seems reasonable that the Lions will also want him back.
I will admit watching Tulloch get those two INT's against us last Sunday is influencing his inclusion on this list. I liked what I saw, a guy that can work the middle of the field and get his hands on the ball.
Brandon Carr (KC) - It's hard to pinpoint what happens to the Chiefs defense with both Carr and Flowers showing signs of regression from a year ago. Carr was a potential breakout player and the Chiefs were poised to have one of the best cornerback tandems in the league. Though Carr has played far from terrible, he will command a price tag a bit above the average of a number two corner.
An option more likely to be in our price range is the Giants Thomas:
Terrell Thomas (NYG) - Thomas was an above average number two cornerback prior to suffering a season-ending injury. He's also one of the best in the league in run support, so if he can make a full recovery, he would be a valuable pick-up for a team looking to get physical on the perimeter.
A CB that is strong in run support is exactly what we need.
I want to say we should be fine on the offensive line just getting our injured players back, but the truth is a veteran guard would be a welcome sight and make this one strong unit:
Carl Nicks (NO) - OG - Nicks is one of the premier guards in the league and after watching Jahri Evans strike a rich deal not too long ago, the Saints may be hard pressed to offer a second guard that type of money, though Nicks arguably had a better season a year ago. If Nicks doesn't put a hometown discount on the table, there's a good chance the market shows him more love than the Saints can afford to show him.
Okay so maybe Nicks might be one of the top 2 free agents at his position but I can dream can't I?
WR is a position I think the Panthers are actually happy with right now but I'm hoping this guy decides he wants to join the Charger exodus east.
Vincent Jackson (SD) - Partially due to his actions and injuries, the Chargers have been reluctant to sign Vincent Jackson to a long-term extension. If there's any animosity between the two parties, this could be the time where there's a split. Still, the best guess is that the team will pay Jackson like a number one receiver and keep him in San Diego.
I realize we have a lot of hopes pinned on David Gettis return but it's hard to deny the element Jackson brings with his size and physical play.
So take my poll to state your preference.