We know something has to give in the Panthers TE depth chart, its just a matter of who. We all know we've signed TE Jeremy Shockey who is assumed to get the starting nod. The only other TE under contract is Gary Barnidge, the previously third TE on the depth chart. Last year's starter Jeff King and back-up Dante Rosario are no longer under contract and are set to be UFA's. Some have suggested that Shockey is no answer at all and the Panthers need to rework the position. So is there an acceptable combination already available. So the question is should the Panthers re-sign either of them?
The better question might be: "Do you see Barnidge as an adequate compliment or back-up to Shockey?" I really want to say yes! and here is why. Of the three previous TE's Barnidge represented to best blend of blocking and pass catching ability. King was a decent blocker but limited in route running. Rosario has tremendously soft hands but could never get on the field except on obvious passing downs. It seems I remember a recent analysis showing Rosario being more effective in the blocking game than assumed but in the end he never became a 3 down TE. Can he handle playing in two TE sets?
We'll look a little further at which TE combo's the new Panthers OC might retain...after the jump...
One of the obvious weaknesses from last year's offense in my opinion was the fact they often telegraphed their plays by the personnel in the game. When Dante Rosario came in the game it was most likely a pass play. In some situations that may not be a big deal but in the this day and age telegraphing even a single play can be damaging to your chances of winning. So if Shockey is the starter who will fill out the depth chart behind him?
Option 1: Shockey - King - Rosario
The most experienced depth chart we could assemble would also be the most expensive. The OC will still need to be sensitive to telegraphing run vs pass be personnel changes. Even if cost is not an obstacle I don't see Chud dumpoing a TE with Barnidge's blend of size, speed and hands. He really could be the future at the position if he can continue to build on what he has shown in prior preseasons.
Option 2: Shockey - King - Barnidge
In this option the Panthers decide to keep the capable blocker for 2 TE sets and also retain the younger Barnidge who still represents upside at the position. Given Shockey is only a one to two year solution Barnidge could be retained for a shot at the 2012 job.
Option 3: Shockey - Rosario - Barnidge
I see this as the most likely scenario provided Rosie can convince the new staff he can block in 2 TE sets (or Barnidge wins that job). I think if Chud looks at a lot of Rosario's tape he's going to see a quick, athletic TE with wonderful fans. He may find that hard to let go of. I want to give this option a higher probability but because I think Rosie will have a higher market value than King he going to get better offers to leave.
Option 4: Shockey - Barnidge - Free Agent
Given both King and Rosario will be looking for more stew the Panthers might let them walk and add a player with more perceived upside than King or Rosario. Besides, I'm hoping they only look at players with the potential to contribute on 3 downs instead of the platoon of specialists employed the past three seasons. Maybe Barnidge will kick ass in the preseason yet again and make this a moot point.
I thought of adding a 5th option and that being Shockey and two free agents (or even one and going only with 2 TEs). But given Shockey's injury history I'm not seeing that. That would mean Barnidge gets cut and I'm not seeing that happening, not now or even during preseason cut downs.
I'm not convinced at all the Panthers need to rework the TE position as suggested. I think they have enough upside in Rosario and/or Barnidge to compliment Shockey in the near term to give the Panthers offense production from the position.