Jerrico Cotchery to be the #2 WR is nice, though there were guys that the Panthers could have gotten for similar money that I liked better. Tiquan Underwood is good for special teams, and will take a roster spot from either Marvin McNutt or Taverres King. It looks like the Panthers may add yet another WR, although the reports of the Panthers being interested in other WRs (i.e. Kenny Britt, Sidney Rice, Jacoby Jones) seem to be more from the media than actual indications of interest by the Panthers. Truthfully there is no hurry: they have until training camp. As for the secondary, I say that if the Panthers add one more guy, that unit will be better than it was last year. Melvin White and Antoine Cason give the Panthers two starting CBs that are 6'1", and Roman Harper (also 6'1") is better than Quentin Mikell or Mike Mitchell, as is obviously Charles Godfrey. The Panthers just need another guy to play the slot, and to serve as insurance in case White regresses, and like WR they have until training camp (when they picked up Mikell) to do it.
But Cam Newton needing surgery shows that the Panthers' biggest need is to improve the offensive line. While the WR/TE play has varied (it was actually pretty good in 2011 with Smitty, Olsen and Shockey) and the RB play has as well, Newton has taken a lot of hits in his first 3 years because of an OL that has never been able to consistently pass-block or run-block. Yes, this includes most of the 364 times that Newton has had to carry the ball in order to help compensate for an offense that just isn't good enough. If he keeps taking this beating, within a couple of years his athleticism will diminish, just as it did for Steve McNair, Donovan McNabb, Daunte Culpepper, Jake Plummer , Brett Favre and Michael Vick. Yes, those hits do also harm a QB's arm strength and accuracy because the back, shoulders, ankles and elbows constantly get jarred.
Yet, beyond getting outbid by the Bucs for Anthony Collins and despite having real question marks at every starting OL position but center, Gettleman has not shown interest in a single OL this offseason. No free agent OLs have come to Charlotte to visit, and none have been linked to the Panthers in the media, not even the types of barely substantiated stories that there have been about Britt and DeSean Jackson. Now of course, the same thing is true of OT as it is DB and WR: the Panthers have until training camp to bring in a one-year stopgap. It is also true that the players that you can get at OT for the same types of contracts that they are giving out at WR and DB are not nearly as good. But it really appears as if the Panthers believe that they can move Jacob Bell to LT, draft a rookie RT and get through the season.
I would be tempted to countenance such notions if the Panthers had above average players at RG and LG. They do not. At LG, Amini Silatolu is a small college OT who struggled mightily as a rookie and missed nearly his entire second season. At RG, remember that Garry Williams was the guy who was supposed to fill that spot until he was injured, forcing the Chris Scott/Nate Chandler thing for the rest of the season, so it is not quite true that the Panthers are counting on Kugbila. Kugbila will only play if he beats out Williams. But the problem is that while Williams is better than Chandler and Scott and fits pretty well into the simple, run-oriented Shula offense that the Panthers will have for at least another season, he is not that good, which means that Kugbila will not have to be that good in order to beat him out. Still, I do not think that the Panthers should use a high pick (or a pick at all) on an OG this draft. Silatolu and Kugbila should be given a shot, and the Panthers have adequate depth (i.e. Chandler, Scott, Williams) should they not pan out, though they should be on the lookout for more veteran free agent OGs as insurance around training camp (as well as make OG a priority in UDFA the way that they made DB last year) and mainly they just have too many other needs (multiple WRs, multiple OTs, a second TE, guys to groom as long term solutions in the secondary, depth at DL). Instead, they have to find a pair of OTs that are at least adequate on their own without the OGs to help them.
Yet there is no evidence that they are on the lookout for such players. Now that the frenzy over finding someone, anyone at WR is done, perhaps the media - which did put pressure on the front office to make moves at WR - will similarly make it known loud and clear that Byron Bell at LT and a rookie at RT is not how to handle a QB coming off surgery. If anything, it is a reason to root for the Panthers' actually landing DeSean Jackson. If they can get Jackson, then that would free the Panthers to use their #1 and #2 draft picks on OTs. #1 pick: RT to play today. #2 pick: LT to play tomorrow. #3 pick: traded for Jackson. #4 pick: best CB on the board. #5 pick: UGA TE Arthur Lynch (a player I still like).The protection would still stink (until the rookie OTs get experience) but at least Cam would be able to get the ball away to Jackson and Olsen or check down to Cotchery before the rush gets there. Ah, one can dream anyway.
It honestly appears that the Panthers are willing to risk next season on the idea that Byron Bell is a capable NFL OT on either side of the OL. Hopefully the same media chorus that pushed the WR issue will cause Gettleman to reconsider.