We’re 75 days away from the Carolina Panthers 2021 season opener, so that means today’s countdown piece is devoted to No. 75 on the roster — offensive lineman Cameron Erving.
The Panthers signed him this offseason to a two-year, $10 million contract with $8 million guaranteed. He entered the league in 2015 as the No. 19 overall pick by the Cleveland Browns. He spent two seasons in Cleveland, three years with the Chiefs, then last season with the Cowboys. He played just six games in Dallas due to a knee injury and generated a ho-hum Pro Football Focus grade of 58.0.
Over the course of his six-year career he has played all five offensive line positions, so he’s about as versatile of a Hog Molly as the league has to offer.
The premise in Carolina is that Erving is the default starting left tackle, a position that has vexed the Panthers since about the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. The former Florida State All-American should have the inside track over Greg Little, a 2019 second round pick who hasn’t yet lived up to expectations, and Brady Christensen, a rookie who was BYU’s stalwart left tackle but could also slide to guard in the NFL. Both ESPN’s depth chart and Ourlads currently list Erving as the team’s starting left tackle.
If Erving does end up as Sam Darnold’s blindside protector and provides at least league average play, that will be a huge win for the Panthers, especially given his relatively affordable cap hit. Carolina isn’t going to get Pro Bowl production at left tackle - they don’t have that level of talent anywhere on the roster - but all they need at this point is general competence. If Erving can provide that, then hallelujah.
Even if Erving doesn’t emerge as the starting left tackle, there could still be use for him elsewhere across the offensive line. As the league expands to a 17-game schedule, depth and positional flexibility will become even more important, and Erving offers that in spades.
He will turn 29 before the season kicks off, so he still has some gas left in the tank for both this year and next, provided he has recovered from last season’s knee injury. At best, he becomes a league average starting left tackle. At worst, he’s a competent, versatile chess piece that can fill in almost anywhere on the offensive line.
It will be interesting to see where he ends up playing in 2021.
What will Cameron Erving’s role be in 2021?
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Starting left tackle
Backup left tackle