I just read a great article by Bill Barnes, at profootballfocus.com this morning, "Free Agents You Meet In Hell". In this article (I'll post the link at the bottom) he points out over the last decade or more the history of how Free Agent signings have worked out. It offers some valuable insight at to what the Panthers should do about RB DeAngelo Williams, DE Charles Johnson, and signing a WR.
RB DeAngelo Williams
"Spending more than a million dollars or so on a RB in free agency though, has mostly been a fool's errand. Vertually every outlay given to a veteran RB in free agency has failed. The last time a team invested more than a million bucks in a free agent RB and got a consistent return was when the Bears snapped up Thomas Jones in 2004." RB's who have put up a 1,000 yard season since 1983 have only been able to repeat that performance an average of 1.5 times over the remainder of their careers."
DE Charles Johnson
It's sort of a mixed bag of good and bad news for Panthers free agent DE Charles Johnson, with both good and bad news.
The bad news - ""When a team has signed or traded for a D-Lineman who produced 10 or more sacks in the season before hitting free agency, it has gotten only an average of 7.1 sacks from that D-Lineman in the subsequent campaign. ... Only 26% of D-Linemen followed up their 10 sack season with another one in their furst campaign with the new team. In fact 20% of the DE's weren't able to get past 2 sacks, thanks to injury or ineffectiveness."
The good news - "Stay away from proven pass rushers and lean towards what might look like flashes in the pan" (Johnson, Babin, etc.). (this next part is a little muddled, so I'll paraphrase to make it a little easier to understand) guys who had hit 10 sacks before leaving hit an average of just 6.3 sacks with their new team next season. Guys who had 10 sacks just once before free agency averaged 9.1 sacks the next season.
A Free Agent WR Warning
Here is a warning about signing WR's who come a powerful offense, with a top QB, unless he's the teams top reveiver, it's been a failure. "Virtually every time that a team has reached for a secondary or tertiary (WR) target from an efficent passing offense, it;s been burned", he calls this "The Alvin Harper Rule". He follows with 2 examples from the 2011 free agent class, Steve Smith (Giants) and Malcolm Floyd. I would add Lance Moore, James Jones, and Steve Breston to the list. You could add WR Sidney Rice to the list, because his only good season was also Brett Farves' best season as well, but he was their top receiver. This would rule out about all free WR's except Santino Holmes, Mike Sims-Walker, and Laurent Robinson (who's around 8th on the Rams depth chart now).
Profootballfocus.com also ranked Panthers OLB James Anderson as the 9th best 4-3 OLB of the last 3 seasons. They also said he's a target of the Lions, along with their 10th best 4-3 OLB of the last 3 seasons Justin Durant, and have previously mentioned Panthers OLB Thomas Davis as a Lions target. If the lion can get these 2 players, then they would have a great front 7, and only lack a top CB.