Per the Charlotte Observer, a prime source for Panther information and analysis, the Panthers don't have many priorities in Free Agency this offseason, and to some extent, this is true. Yet, littered through the depth of our own Free Agents is one player who made an impact last year, without whom, the defense would have been enumerably worse. The player I'm talking about is Antwan Applewhite, DE out of San Diego State.
A mid season acquisition from the Chargers, Applewhite was brought in to bring versatility and depth to our beleaguered Defensive Ends. Applewhite arrived in Charlotte with experience playing in the 3-4, as well as the 4-3, and had experience playing under Coach Ron Rivera in San Diego. Applewhite stands in at 6'3 and weighs 258 lbs. (NFL.com), with a 4.7 forty yard dash, and a 35 inch vertical (NFL Draft Scout).
Applewhite received significant action in 12 games, and racked up 26 tackles, 2 sacks, a Forced Fumble, and a Safety. However, the true value of Applewhite lies in the rest he provided for Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson. Coming into the season the Panthers had virtually no reserves for Johnson and Hardy, and the expectation was that they would have to play extended amounts of playing time, with less conditioning in a shortened offseason. The amount of wear and tear that struck the Panther pass rushers would seemingly diminish their effectiveness, and open up the possibility of injuries as seen with Charles Johnson. Applewhite provided a brief reprieve for the Kraken and Big Money, racked up consistent pressure, and was integral in the Panthers 3-4/4-3 hybrid schemes, splitting his time between 3-4 OLB and 4-3 DE.
Applewhite is also a Free Agent this offseason, and will likely command an increase in salary. With the limited cap resources available to the Panthers, it could be hard for the Front Office to resign him. However, losing Applewhite could be catastrophic to the future success of the Panthers Defense. As we've seen with other prosperous teams in the NFL, i.e. the Super Bowl Champion New York Giants, a potent pass rush is key to achieving a better defense, and losing what little rotation we have at DE would only invite further disparagement of Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson. In my opinion, resigning Antwan Applewhite to a mid level contract should be one of Marty Hurney's top priorities this offseason.
What do you guys think? Should the Panthers resign Antwan Applewhite, let him walk, or just convert Cam to Defensive End?