In an extremely deep linebacker core where even the backups are well known in league circles, David Mayo hasn't had much of a chance to make an impact. The Panthers selected Mayo in the 5th round of last year's draft, but as a rookie he only saw time as a special teamer, despite a window of opportunity while stud middle linebacker Luke Kuechly was out due to concussion.
Of course, this has been mostly due to a standout performance by backup middle linebacker A.J. Klein, who while filling in for Kuechly last season showed that he could start at middle linebacker for several teams in the league. Klein will be entering the final year of his rookie deal this season, and will be an unrestricted free agent afterward should the Panthers not decide to take action. The reality is that Klein deserves to be a starting linebacker somewhere, and he is not likely to get that chance here. If I were him, despite how much he seems to like it here, and even if we offer him decent backup money to stay, you gotta chase the bigger contract and starting job elsewhere.
Enter David Mayo, the "I don't get it" draft choice of the year last year, and potentially the next stone of reinforcement for the "In Gettleman, we trust" crowd. The Panthers will have their eyes on him in an attempt to assess his value as a viable backup to Kuechly going forward, and it seems likely to me he will be given some time in live action knowing that Klein's days on the team may be numbered. Of course, this is exactly the type of thing the preseason is made for, but I'd really like to see Mayo get some time against guys that are starter material, or at least heavy time with the 2nd team instead of Klein.
But this is just another great example overall about how a best player available strategy in the draft can ultimately help a team. Another middle linebacker wasn't even a remote need for the Panthers, yet suddenly the starter misses a few games and the backup shines, then one year later you're anticipating having that need. If you feel good about a guy, its a good idea to take them and let them develop until you need them, rather than forcing them into heavy duty before they are ready. This is the method for building a consistent winner, and Gettleman knows that. Now all that is left is for the players to hold up their end up the bargain.