USA TODAY Sports
The Carolina Panthers have barely enough room to breathe, but there are a few options they should pursue this off-season.
Dave Gettleman has a plan. It's hard to see what that plan is, or what his vision is to get the Panthers under the salary cap -- but it's clear to see that he does have a plan. The minute moves the team has made to their contracts, adjusting here, tweaking there -- all show an organization who are trying, even if the end result isn't clear. The draft is the way Carolina will need to build a team. With little money to play with, and myriad needs it's near-impossible to see them being able to play in free agency, but there are three (relatively) low-cost moves that would bolster the roster.
Take Chris Canty off the table for a second. Yes, the addition of a veteran defensive tackle to the roster is much-needed, and he's willing to give the team a hometown discount; much like Mike Tolbert did in 2012. However, as much as that's a good fit, it does fly in the face of Carolina's youth movement. There are three other players who would fulfill dual goals of keeping the team young, while not breaking the bank.
Projected contract: 2 years, $8.5 million
Is it worth taking a risk on an oft-injured player? When the risk is four-million a season, it probably is. Such is the case of former Detroit Lions' safety Louis Delmas, who has missed 13 games in the last two seasons. Arriving in the NFL like a bullet, the 25-year-old free safety has taken some steps back, but he's still more talented than any FS the Panthers currently have on their roster.
Last year the New York Jets signed LaRon Landry for a song, and got excellent production from the free agent. So too the Panthers could address their FS position short term with a lot of upside for relatively little risk, and hope to find a safety in the late rounds of the draft, or look for that long-term elite player in 2014.
Projected contract: 1 year, $2.5 million
He's no Chris Canty, but he's young and the potential is there. Caught in the post-Del Rio dumpster fire, Knighton had an excellent first two years in the league, then took huge steps back in 2011 and 2012. At 26-years-old, there's still plenty of upside for the true 4-3 NT.
If you're looking for a space eater, Knighton can fill this role. A one-year deal is based on the supposition that he's hoping to make an impact and earn a second solid contract. There will be a starting opportunity in Carolina, one that not many other teams can offer.
Projected contract: 3 years, $10.0 million
This one is a little more out of left field, but it makes a lot of sense for the needs of the Panthers. At this point we know who Mike Tolbert is: a great short-yardage option, and a bowling ball at the goal line. He isn't, however, a blocker -- not close.
The 28-year-old Casey is essentially Ben Hartsock, but better at everything. Unlike Hartsock he's has receiving ability, is an excellent in-line blocker, and helped pave the way for Arian Foster over the last three seasons. Yes, the Panthers could find a blocking TE through the draft, and he would be cheaper -- but if you want an immediate upgrade to Carolina's blocking, even if they're unable to find a tackle in the draft, this is the way. Gary Barnidge is set to be a free agent, and there's a need for someone to complement Greg Olsen