2010 standout Charles Johnson will likely be the most difficult player to try and retain for Carolina.
NFL Insiders are reporting that when a CBA is finalized teams will be given a 72 hour grace period to talk to their outgoing free agents and get the first opportunity to sign their players. During this time no other team would be allowed to talk to a player, or their agent about prospective deals. For the Carolina Panthers these 72 hrs could be the most critical time in the last 5 years of the franchise, and could shape the next 5 years of the organization also.
Writers with a modicum of understanding realize that the Carolina Panthers are not as bad as 2010 advertised. We don't need to rehash the same reasons why this collapse occurred, but what we do see is numerous writers from Pro Football Focus, Football Outsiders and Pat Yaskinskas to name a few all acknowledging that last season was an outlier. Meanwhile, those writers trying to look intelligent while saying nothing at all tend to rely on cliches far too much "They need help everywhere" comes to mind, and it's a great phrase to use when "I have no clue" makes you look foolish.
More after the jump
No, the Carolina Panthers don't "need help everywhere", but should these first 72 hrs of free agency go badly then the team could be behind the eight-ball in terms of building the roster over the next few years. It's curious that a team who has 'so little talent' are about to have the top rated DE, RB and OLB all enter free agency at the same time; obviously there's enough talent that other teams will be taking long looks at Charles Johnson, DeAngelo Williams and James Anderson.
It's near impossible to predict how this free agency period will play out for the Panthers, but if I feel I need to give my perspective on what I think will happen- in short, I think DeAngelo Williams will return, but we will lose Charles Johnson and James Anderson to other teams. In the case of Johnson it won't be for lack of trying, but I think Anderson is allowed to walk.
I would love to be wrong, but I think Charles Johnson's situation is another of those "writing on the wall" moments that some fans will see a mile away, while others will plug their ears with their fingers and hope it all blows over. This offseason there has been literally nothing to give us any indication Johnson has any loyalty to the Carolina Panthers. Look no further than his twitter account:
3/11/11- Bs Jerry. They making it seem like its the players fault.
3/11/11- How can u play for someone when they want to take money out your pocket for playing great.
6/24/11- So people say I need to stay in charlotte! Why thow? I like Charlotte and the panthers but it's gonna be a tuff choice. I want to win!
Does this sound like a player who is willing to resign in Carolina? It doesn't seem like it, especially when teams like Atlanta will surely come knocking on the door early and often. We've seen this play out before- some will undoubtedly say "But, Rivera can convince him!" It's a similar argument we heard regarding Julius Peppers resigning and John Fox leaving. Without the right of first refusal the Panthers are going to have to sell Johnson big time on the Panthers in those first 72 hrs, because if they can't and he hits open waters it will be near impossible to retain him.