Panther Paw Prints: Pre-Combine Edition

USA TODAY Sports

Here's some links around the web related to the Panthers, Panther draft prospects and the upcoming NFL combine.

You might recall in one of his early interviews Gettleman says he looks for three types of players in the draft: players who can score, players who can rush the passer and big men. This first link supports my theory he looks for a player who can score right out of the gate. Here's a list of Panther team needs from NFL.com:

2013 NFL Draft: Manti Te'o, Luke Joeckel could fit teams' needs - NFL.com
Carolina Panthers Position to watch: Wide receiver.

Expect the Panthers to fortify their defensive line and secondary with multiple picks. Defensive tackle is a huge need, but wide receiver is the group worth watching at the combine, as veteran Steve Smith is entering his 13th season and Brandon LaFell is merely mediocre as a WR2. Keenan Allen of Cal or Cordarrelle Patterson of Tennessee are big-time prospects who are possibilities for Carolina, which has the 14th overall pick. The Panthers most likely will go with a receiver or defensive tackle in the first round.

I agree with any prediction that the Panthers take a WR early. Why? If you take Steve Smith out of the Panthers offense where do the big plays come from other than Cam taking it himself? Gettleman follows what he knows works.

With our second round pick we could check off Gettleman's second item, a pass rusher:

Marquise Goodwin, Jesse Williams will be stars of NFL combine - NFL.com
5) SMU DE Margus Hunt Hunt is a unique player with a very interesting background. He grew up in Karksi-Nuia, Estonia and was a track star. He won gold medals in the shot and the discus at the 2006 World Junior Championships. He checked in at 6-foot-8 and weighed 277 pounds at the Senior Bowl. He is expected to run in the 4.7 neighborhood and leap around 9-10 in the broad jump. I had a chance to watch him train at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., last month, and he was very impressive in the shuttle drills as well.

If you think we have no need for another pass rusher I disagree, you can never have enough. Hunt is raw and I worry about his toughness and being too much of a finesse pass rusher as we saw during the Senior Bowl practices but at the same time the potential is huge. Plus he could be weapon on special teams at blocking FGs.

Some pundits like Bucky Brooks think many have this guy over-rated, which means he slides right to us:

2013 NFL Mock Drafts : NFL Mock Draft: Geno Smith still holds top spot
#14 - Star Lotulelei

Inconsistent motor or whatever, if he is there I will be yelling for the Panthers to pounce. My desire for a WR is based on the assumption the top DTs will be gone. In this case they are not.

Worried about the Panthers salary cap woes? Ron Rivera isn't so why should you?

Ron Rivera: Carolina Panthers on track to meet $121M salary cap | CharlotteObserver.com
"We’re going through the whole thing first and foremost before those decisions are made," he said. League sources say cutting nine-year veteran cornerback Chris Gamble is expected to be the first big move for Gettleman and Carolina. That would free $7.9 million in cap space. The Panthers have three starters set to be free agents – defensive tackle Dwan Edwards, safety Sherrod Martin and cornerback Captain Munnerlyn. "We’re preparing for" free agency, Rivera said. "We’ve got all the names down, and we’re looking at all the potential guys we like. Obviously we’ve got our own guys too that we’re concerned with and we’re looking at."

I'm betting all four Panthers mentioned above get a chance to test free agency.

Though the Panthers are unlikely to use the franchise tag this year here's the top two tag numbers (besides QB) for reference:

Franchise tag numbers tentatively set; 2013 cap near $121M - NFL.com
These figures were distributed in early December at the annual meeting of team owners in Dallas, reports NFL.com's Ian Rapoport. They will likely be finalized in March.

CB: Franchise: $10.668 Transition: $8.939

DE: Franchise: $10.984 Transition: $8.994

Another reference to the top combine performances of all time:

NFL Events: Combine Top Performers
The official source for NFL news, schedules, stats, scores and more.

Wrapping it up is news that the stadium tax is looking like it will happen:

Charlotte Chamber supports Carolina Panthers stadium tax raise | CharlotteObserver.com
"The Panthers are an integral part of Charlotte’s economic development package," the update reads. "The Panthers also represent a positive impact to Charlotte’s economy."

End Paw Prints...

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