The Carolina Panthers aren’t a team that ended their season on a 1-7 skid because they missed a couple of opportunities. They were an almost-good team that lost a lot of games due to talent deficiencies. Injuries, age, and a lack of attention from management all played their part in constructing a roster that was good enough to compete against most teams, but bad enough to lose to them as well. Here is a look at the top needs the Panthers need to address on their roster to make sure that 2019 isn’t plagued by the same curse.
Cam Newton is progressing well, by all accounts, from recent surgery on his throwing shoulder. That is great news for the Panthers because two games without him, and six more with him only being mildly healthy, proved this team is not built to win without number one on the field. The Panthers have to bring in some additional talent to compete for the privilege of being the break-in-case-of-emergency option in the event that Newton’s recovery stalls out. Kyle Allen or Taylor Heinicke might prove to be that option, but the team cannot afford to assume that they will be. There has to be competition to be certain.
The Panthers dealt with a rough stretch of injuries at the offensive tackle position before the 2018 season even started. Matt Kalil and soon to be free agent Daryl Williams had little to no impact on this season. Even losing Amini Silatolu felt like an actual loss. Kalil will likely be on the roster in 2019, whether or not he has an impact on the season is anybody’s guess. He is perennially back from injury, this year will be no different. Williams is the more intriguing athlete, he has neither the contract nor the injury history that weighs down expectations for Kalil. There has been no indication yet as to the Panthers plans for this position in the coming year, but it is unlikely they are going to start the year with Taylor Moton as the only healthy tackle under contract.
Ryan Kalil has retired after 12 seasons, five Pro Bowls, and two first team All Pro honors. Tyler Larsen, the heir apparent, has been OK in relief of an oft-injured Kalil in the past two seasons and is under contract through 2020. This won’t be the highest priority for the Panthers this year, but don’t be surprised to see them drop a high draft pick if the right guy comes along.
The Panthers ranked 27th in the league in 2018 with only 35 sacks. It seems, in hindsight, that relying on a 37 year old defensive lineman to be one of your premiere pass rushers might have been a mistake. Mario Addison is still a good defensive end, but he can’t play by himself. Ron Rivera’s defense requires putting pressure on the quarterback. That starts up front. The Panthers absolutely must invest, in either free agency or the draft, in improving their talent at defensive end if they want to field a defense that looks professional.
Eric Reid and Mike Adams combined last year to form a fairly competent pair of safeties. That is remarkable for one guy who didn’t have an off season and another who has probably seen too many. Neither of them are still under contract in 2019 and neither of them are guaranteed to be options for the Panthers in free agency. Reid may be too expensive and Adams is pushing 38. Rashaan Gaulden and Colin Jones can’t be the top two safeties heading into training camp.
These are the top needs for the Carolina Panthers running into 2019. There will be a lot of options in both free agency and the draft to address them. The rest of this week on Cat Scratch Reader will be devoted to talking about whether and how the Panthers should use the NFL draft, specifically, to see to these positions.