ESPN columnist Mike Sando spoke with NFL coaches, executives and league insiders to gauge how each team has fared in the first wave of free agency (ESPN Insider required), and if Sando’s sources are correct the Carolina Panthers still have some work to do this offseason.
You can read Sando’s write-up on the Panthers below, but if you want to read the entire piece you’ll need to have an ESPN Insider subscription.
During the past couple seasons, the Panthers have gone from kings of the NFC to arguably the third-best team in their division. This free agency period did not seem to reverse the tide.
A bizarre foot injury requiring a skin graft doomed Carolina’s agreement with former [Washington] cornerback Bashaud Breeland — this after the Panthers agreed to trade one of their own corners, Daryl Worley, to Philadelphia for receiver Torrey Smith.
”Not getting Breeland might have been a blessing in disguise for them, because even though he is a good player, his play has declined every year for the last three years,” an insider said.
There was much less surprise when All-Pro guard Andrew Norwell departed for $13.3 million per year with Jacksonville, or when starting defensive tackle Star Lotulelei accepted $10 million per year from Buffalo. Carolina replaced Lotulelei with Dontari Poe while ... trading for Smith and signing Jarius Wright at receiver.
”Their plan is to get younger on the back end, so we could see them focus there in the draft,” an insider said. “They still need another running back. I feel like they still need a receiver. They put all that money into Matt Kalil at left tackle last year, and that was a mistake. So there are question marks on offense, too.”
I think it’s a fair assessment of where the Panthers currently stand. Carolina has a severe lack of depth on their roster — especially at wide receiver and safety — and they have a limited amount of cap space and draft picks at their disposal to address those needs. I don’t think the Panthers are in ‘tear it down and rebuild’ territory just yet, but their championship window is closing and if they want to send Thomas Davis, Ryan Kalil and Julius Peppers off into the sunset with a ring, they’ll need to get to work quickly.
What do you think, Panthers fans? Is Sando’s take reasonable? Share your thoughts with us!