Are the Carolina Panthers Sifting for Diamonds?



FYI...By Friday morning, the Panthers will have welcomed over 45 new faces to Panther nation, but fans should be prepared to say goodbye to over half of them by the end of the weekend. Prior to the start of camp, many of the Panthers 2012 draft picks will have signed contracts, along with thier undrafted peers. Panthers fans should expect anywhere from 8 to 12 additional signings of players who impress GM Marty Hurney and head coach Ron Rivera the most during the rookie mini-camp. Marty had this to say about the upcoming weekend that will exhibit only rookies, and players with less than a year of NFL experience.

"It;s just a good opportunity for these guys to come in and get a look," Hurney said. "You never know, if someone looks good, then you pursue it."

For the duration of the summer, the roster will likely float around 100 to 105 players, but many prospects this weekend will be fighting for their shot to make it to summer camps. Of the approximate 45 to 50 players in camp, over half will be guys brought in on three-day tryout contracts.

More after the jump

One player who may have a leg up in landing a more permanent contract with the Panthers, San Jose State receiver Michael Avila. Avila and Ron Rivera are both graduates of Seaside High School in Seaside, California.

"You can't coach speed," said lead Panther Ron Rivera. "It's one of the traits we look for. There are no guarantees, but sometimes you find a diamond in the rough."

Avila was recently clocked running a 4.36 at one of his pro days, a shock to some after the speedster went down with a torn MCL in his junior season, resulting in surgery to repair the damage. Avila was consequently buried on the San Jose State depth chart, and relegated to special teams work. He only amassed 4 catches during his senior season. Ron Rivera doesn't seem to think this was because of his talent.

"What might have happened is he got caught in the middle of the transition of coaches, Rivera continued. "Plus he was coming off an injury and missed a year. I don't know, but we want to see what kind of ability Mike has."

There is no doubt the Panthers would like to add depth to their WR core that consist of veteran Pro Bowler Steve Smith, along with recent draft selections Brandon LaFell and David Gettis. Gettis, the former Baylor standout, is attempting to regain form and his spot on the depth chart after missing the entire 2011 season with a torn left ACL suffered during training camp.Also the Panthers will no longer have Legedu Naanee, but many view this as addition by subtraction, mainly because Naanee was one the most targeted WRs in the NFL last season, while being one of the least productive in a starting role. Carolina will have 4 undrafted recievers to compete with 4th round selection Joe Adams, and a host of WRs on three-day contracts this weekend. Receiver performances this weekend will possibly be the most viewed and scrutinized portion by fans.

The Panthers currently have 91 players on their roster, including draft picks and undrafted free agents. Carolina will have until the August 28th NFL deadline to evaluate talent before cutting it's roster down to 80 players. Only a few days later, on September 2nd, they will be required to finalize the 53 man roster. The Panthers are searching for a diamond in the rough, and the sifting begins this weekend.

Follow me @JonMcCaskill on Twitter, and look out for my sports blog, coming soon

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