Last night, Gaston Gazette's Steve Reed tweeted that, per Jerry Richardson, the Panthers will be 'aggressive' in free agency. While this shouldn't really surprise anyone based on what we've heard, it's nice to hear it directly from the Big Cat's mouth. It's important to measure one's excitement when hearing this news. It's easy to get carried away with images of Sidney Rice catching TD passes and Nnamdi Asomugha shutting down corners, all while wearing the black and electric blue, but the reality is that 'aggressive' to fans, and 'aggressive' to the front office are very different things.
Yes, Richardson did say the Panthers would try to sign players from other teams, but it's not realistic to thing we'll be dabbling in the AAA players, and if Carolina does then it will be because they lost significant players they tried to resign. The modus operandi of the organization is to try and retain the talent you have, before trying to drink from someone else's well.
After the jump we'll look at five ways the Carolina Panthers will be 'aggressive' in free agency.
1. Offering Charles Johnson a fair deal
- The Panthers will spend, they just wont overspend. With no player is this more prevalent than DE Charles Johnson. Despite having a breakout 2010 season, he's still just settling in as an NFL starter. Should another team choose to pay Johnson like a top 5 DE, the Panthers will let them and look for help elsewhere. That being said, they will offer CJ a competitive, fair deal based on his production- just as they did with Julius Peppers last year.
2. Locking up Ryan Kalil long term
- After trying to sign Charles Johnson, the Panthers' next highest priority will be to sign Pro Bowl C Ryan Kalil to a long term contract. Any time you have a proven player who is in the top 2-3 players at his position then you need to secure their services for a long time. Kalil likes Carolina, the Panthers like Kalil... it just makes sense. Just as the New York Jets insured their future by signing Nick Mangold to a long term deal after franchising him last year, the Panthers will do the same with Kalil.
3. Keeping strengths strong
- The two deepest positions for the Carolina Panthers (who are admittedly thing in other areas) are at running back and linebacker. As such, the third priority of the Panthers will be to try and bring DeAngelo Williams and James Anderson into the fold. Ideally they'll find a way to bring back both, but in reality this is probably going to be an either/or proposition, and the Panthers will let the market dictate the value. In the same vein as Charles Johnson, the Panthers wont overpay.
4. Bring some mid-level depth to weak positions
- As it stands the two weakest positions for the Carolina Panthers are at defensive tackle and cornerback. Unless they lose one of their own free agents it's unlikely they would offer a deal to Johnathan Joseph, Ike Taylor or the aforementioned Nnamdi Asomugha, but defensive tackle represents an area where mid-level players and needs coincide. We've talked a lot about Brandon Mebane on CSR, and he will likely be a target of the Panthers. If everything goes according to plan with their own free agents, expect the team to pursue a CB like Brandon Carr (formerly of the Chiefs) or Josh Wilson of the Ravens. Both players are younger options than the top guys, and can be had for less money.
5. Begin the negotiations with Jon Beason
- The last thing the Carolina Panthers want is for the history of Julius Peppers, Charles Johnson and DeAngelo Williams to repeat with their team captain. The final stage of the offseason will be to begin working out the terms of a new deal with Beason, and should the Panthers still be under the cap floor then we could see them extend Beason early, and have some of his signing bonus apply towards this year's cap.
When it's all said and done 'aggressive' in this case applies to making sure your house is in order, and doing what it takes to achieve that goal. The Carolina Panthers will try to retain all their drafted players before looking outside the organization, and when that happens it's unlikely they'll make the kind of splashes that raise the needle around the NFL. A few prudent decisions this offseason will shape the long term future of this organization, and ensure we don't see the same cap issues that forced the Panthers to jettison their veterans in 2010.