Is this really the year the Carolina Panthers should 'splurge' in free agency?

Mike Wahle was a servicable LG in 2005 when he was signed, but hardly the game-changer that would have warranted his price tag.

Even in the wake of an exciting draft class which has enthused the fan base there's a distinct air of 'bad timing' surrounding the Carolina Panthers' rebuilding effort. Starting with the consensus #1 pick returning to school (he who shall not be named), and continuing with the lack of free agency or player trades due to lockout, it feels a little like the cards have been stacked against the organization. That being said, if there's one franchise that knows how to play with their collective backs against the wall it's the Carolina Panthers.

While none of us really have any idea how a 2011 will be conducted (provided there is one) there seems to be a growing belief that the NFL and NFLPA will ultimately settle and play under 2010 rules again while they try and hammer out a long term CBA. This scenario would have short and far reaching effects on the Carolina Panthers organization. One negative element would be that under 2010 rules there would be no rookie pay scale, meaning the Panthers would need to sign Cam Newton to a $50 million guaranteed contract; while it's no skin of our noses, it would effect the immediate salary cap funds for the Carolina Panthers. However, under 2010 rules players can't become unrestricted free agents until they have accrued 6 NFL seasons- this would mean that DeAngelo Williams, Charles Johnson and James Anderson would all safely be Carolina Panthers next season (provided a team doesn't choose to spend the exorbitant cost of signing an RFA to an offer sheet). 

Rather than looking at the players we have on the roster, today I thought we'd look at the UFA list for 2010 at the CB and DT positions and see if there is really anyone who could step in, and if so who would be worth it.

More after the jump

I know it's become the crutch of the uninformed to paint Jerry Richardson as a miser not willing to spend money on the team, but those people have far too short a memory. In the 2005 off-season the Panthers made arguably the biggest splash when they spent big money to acquire two of the top free agents on the market- G Mike Wahle and CB Ken Lucas. Though now in 2011 these seem like moderate signings at best, make no mistake they were the most desirable targets in free agency and many thought these would be the moves that put the Panthers 'over the top' as they paired Lucas with a blossoming Chris Gamble, and the stalwart Mike Wahle would make the Panthers' offensive line almost impenetrable. Sadly, neither really turned out to be the case, both were rather underwhelming based on the hype and then the front office started getting hamstrung.

This 'hamstringing' I'm referring to was the confluence of bad internal decisions, too many veterans needing extensions and the straw to break the camels back was the Julius Peppers debacle. The front office misjudged how much some of their veterans would fetch on the open market, and ultimately overpaid for their services. When this was coupled with Peppers' tendered price there was no way they could be big players in free agency until that money came off the books.

Fast forward to 2011, where the money is off the books and the Panthers could be big players in free agency should they desire. Even with extensions for DeAngelo Williams, Ryan Kalil, Charles Johnson AND getting a jump on deals for Jon Beason and Jonathan Stewart it's safe to say the Panthers would have around $25 million in cap space (provided they structured the deals well). 

Without further ado lets look at the best players available in free agency, should the NFL operate under the 2010 rules: 

 

DT

Anthony Adams  Marques Douglas 

Ron Edwards  Ronald Fields 

Aubrayo Franklin  Anthony Hargrove 

Chris Hoke  Chris Hovan

Damione Lewis Bryan Robinson

Craig Terrill Jimmy Wilkerson 

Pat Williams 

Analysis: Really, are any of these players worth it? I know we've discussed Brandon Mebane in the past, but due to the league's 6 year rule he wouldn't apply and it would be unlikely he would be cut by the Seahawks. Honestly, I don't see a single DT on this list who would be worth spending money on. What do you think?

 

CB

Nnamdi Asomugha Phillip Buchanon 

Chris Carr  Travis Daniels 

Drayton Florence  Ellis Hobbs 

Roderick Hood  William James 

Karl Paymah  Keiwan Ratliff 

Carlos Rogers Lito Sheppard 

Ike Taylor  Frank Walker 

Fabian Washington Brian Williams 

Analysis: Lets clear the 10,000 lb elephant out of the room right now: Nnamdi Asomugha is a pipe dream. He's simply not going to come to Carolina when equal money is going to be thrown at him by teams who are closer to contending for a title, but that doesn't mean there aren't some guys on this list who couldn't help.

One wonders if Carlos Rogers was really never as good as advertised, or a product of a dysfunctional Washington Redskins organization? As a veteran CB he could come at a decent price, and with Ron Meeks could be turned into an effective starter. Similarly, Ellis Hobbs is another guy who could be had for the right price.

 

As it stands I'm not really sure this is the year for the Panthers to loosen the purse strings, nor do I think they will due to the circumstances behind this off-season. While it may draw the ire of some fans, in the long run I don't think this is the year to put too many eggs in too few baskets. It would behoove the Panthers to keep the money, maybe make a cheap(er) pickup here or there, like Rogers or Hobbs and save the rest for when free agency is in full swing again. What do you think Panthers fans? 

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