Ranking the Panthers Free Agents from 1 to 21

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

I saw David Newton doing this and thought it was a good idea but rather than dragging it out I'll cover it in a single post.

Gettleman says he needs to do a lot of evaluation and I'm sure deciding what to do with each of the free agents is at the top of the list:

Carolina Panthers are ready to reload | Carolina Panthers | NewsObserver.com
"What’s very dangerous is your most recent snapshot," Gettleman said. "You can’t forget that we played 16 games before (the loss to the 49ers). You have to view it as a whole. If you’re looking at a young player, how much did he progress during the course of the year? You’re looking at an older guy, did he lose something at the end of the year? These are all things that take time."

Part of that might include ranking his free agents based on priority. When I say priority I mean priority for whether to try and bring them back. There is no guarantee those with high priority will come back because of the salary cap but I'm not going to try and tackle that topic here. I'm addressing their contribution to the team and how easily (or not) it would be to replace the player. So here's my ranking of them 1 to 21, starting with the top 8, key free agents:

Top 8 Key Free Agents

1. OL Jordan Gross - (contract automatically voids if on roster Feb. 7) Though many will have Hardy at #1 I think having a LT like Gross protecting Newton's blind side is more important. The only question is whether the Panthers will ask him to return or not which I think is based on salary cap impact.

2. DE Greg Hardy - We all want him back, he wants to come back but I just can't see the Panthers getting close to what he can get on the open market. I hope I'm wrong but it seems likely he walks.

3. K Graham Gano - The guy has solidified a very important position so I would hope we are working on something real soon.

4. S Mike Mitchell - Mitchell isn't without his faults but he has brought toughness to the secondary that was sorely needed. He also has great speed and has been a leader on the field, in spite of the occasional 15 yard penalty.

5. WR Ted Ginn Jr. - Ginn is another nice 2013 pick-up that we need to keep, even if it's only to return kicks.

6. WR Brandon LaFell - Whether you feel LaFell is or should be and is not a #2 WR, he serves a role in the offense in several capacities and therefore should be brought back. I hope we give him some solid competition in 2014.

7. TE Ben Hartsock - Provided he is healthy Hartsock should be brought back to continue his role as blocking TE. He is long in the tooth though so it's no guarantee he decides to hang up the cleats.

8. CB Captain Munnerlyn - Munny may not be a #1 CB but he's a good slot guy and so I say bring him back and throw in some more competition.

Here's where I go from ‘Players I think we should bring back' to ‘Bring back only if the price is right'. The Other 13 if you will.

The Other 13 Free Agents

9. OL Travelle Wharton - There is no doubt Wharton played well down the stretch but if Silatolu is healthy I think Getts looks to save money here.

10. S Quintin Mikell - Mikell played well at times but wasn't much of a playmaker when we needed him. Plus I think Mitchell might be better at SS as we try to upgrade the FS spot. There is also the fact Charles Godfrey remains under contract so one of the two free agent safeties is probably leaving.

11. OL Garry Williams * - I thought Williams was playing well at RG before the ACL injury. If he is healthy I think his versatility to play multiple positions is worth another opportunity to win a roster spot.

12. OL Byron Bell (RFA) - It will be interesting to see what RFA tag they place on Bell. Though obviously the Panther fan base is clamoring for an upgrade I bet another team out there might pay a draft pick for a guy with as much experience as Bell has. If another team puts up the money I bet they let him walk.

13. DT Colin Cole - Cole played fairly well at times but other times not so much. I could see the Panthers deciding to look for younger options for the 4th DT spot.

14. CB Drayton Florence - Maybe that PI call against Boldin is jading me but I just wasn't impressed with Florence down the stretch. Unfortunately we didn't have any other options, I guess. I expect big changes in the secondary with Florence being one of them.

15. QB Derek Anderson - Hard to put much priority on a guy that rarely gets on the field. I do hope they bring him back but I do not see it as a priority.

16. CB James Dockery * (RFA) - It's really hard to say if we have seen enough from this guy to bring him back. The injury is a serious concern for any bubble player but especially for a secondary in need of some fresh talent.

17. LB Jordan Senn - Senn has been a reliable back-up and STs guy who could be replaced or might stick for another season. I don't see his role as a priority for Getts until he works out the starting line-up.

18. WR Domenik Hixon - If he's finally healthy then maybe he is worth another look. His 2013 performance gave us nothing to work with outside of one key catch against the Saints.

19. LB Jason Williams - The blocked punt by itself might be worth another season on STs but otherwise Williams fills a back-up role that could be filled a number of ways.

20. TE Richie Brockel (RFA) - Brockel might return just on his STs play and diversity within the offense. I'm just not sure he couldn't be replaced by a cheaper option at this point.

21. LB Dan Connor - If Rivera likes veteran back-ups and as I said earlier if the price is right then bring him back. But he could be replaced with little effort.

22. OL Geoff Hangartner - If he couldn't help us at RG down the stretch then why bring him back now? I don't see it happening.

23. QB Jimmy Clausen * - see Bruce Campbell. If Clausen couldn't garner a draft pick last year why would be worth bringing back now?

24. OL Jeff Byers * (ERFA) - He has some versatility between center and guard but he didn't show much before going on IR right when he had a chance to shine. I guess there is a chance they bring him back no priority.

25. 25. OL Bruce Campbell * - Though he appeared to be playing better right before going on IR can't this experiment just be over? Certainly we can find better.

* Ended season on IR

So there you go...what do you think?

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