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Prioritizing the Carolina Panthers upcoming free agents

The Panthers have a number of important pieces set to enter free agency.

NFL Combine Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

NFL free agency is set to officially open at 4:00 pm on March 15. Prior to that, there is a two day window in which teams can negotiate deals with upcoming free agents, but no deals can be officially signed. The Carolina Panthers have a number of players set to enter free agency, and a handful of them were important parts of the team last season.

The priorities

Bradley Bozeman, center. Bozeman filled in after starting center Pat Elflein went on injured after week 6. Bozeman flourished as the team’s starting center and anchored what was one of the best Panthers offensive lines in recent memory.

D’Onta Foreman, running back. Foreman became the team’s primary early down back after Christian McCaffrey was traded midseason. He seized the opportunity and ran for 877 yards and five touchdowns in the 11 games after McCaffrey was traded. That translates to a 1,355 yard, eight touchdown season in 17 games. He shouldn’t be too pricey, and it’s nice to have a strong back that can pick up tough yards when needed.

Matt Ioannidis, defensive lineman. Ioannidis missed a few weeks with injury down the stretch, but he was a very impactful addition to the defensive line last season. The Panthers would be wise to try to sign him to a couple of more years to keep the main components of their front seven intact.

Myles Hartsfield, defensive back. Hartsfield has found a niche as a versatile DB that can play as a safety or nickel corner, and that’s a hard skill set to find. He’s not a threat to be an All Pro or anything, but he played a significant number of snaps on defense last season and shouldn’t be too costly to retain.

If the price is right

Sam Darnold, quarterback. I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of Panthers fans are over the Sam Darnold experiment. However, he finished last season not terribly and looks to be a backup-worthy quarterback. If he’s willing to take that role, he wouldn’t be a bad option to retain. He could also function as the bridge quarterback for the rookie the Panthers will almost surely draft.

Juston Burris, Sam Franklin, Sean Chandler, safeties. The Panthers have a lot of free agent safeties. Xavier Woods has one spot locked down after a solid first season in Carolina. Jeremy Chinn will get some safety/hybrid snaps. The Panthers probably don’t have the need or space to bring back all three of their free agent safeties (especially if they bring back Hartsfield like I mentioned above). Burris is probably the best of the bunch, but he’s also the oldest and contributes the least on special teams.

Cameron Erving, tackle. Offensive line depth is hard to come by. Erving isn’t a guy you want penciled in as a starter, but you’re doing pretty well if he’s your backup swing tackle.

Eddie Pineiro, kicker. The Panthers signed Pineiro as an emergency kicker after Zane Gonzalez suffered a groin injury in the preseason. Pineiro only went on to convert 33-of-35 field goals, good for fourth in the league in makes and second in conversion rate. However, Gonzalez went 20-of-22 the year prior and is still under contract for next season. The Panthers may elect to bring Pineiro back and let the two battle it out in camp.

The rest

  • Michael Jordan - guard
  • Rashard Higgins - wide receiver
  • Andre Roberts - returner/wide receiver
  • Henry Anderson - defensive end
  • Cory Littleton - linebacker
  • Joel Iyiegbuniwe - linebacker
  • TJ Carrie - cornerback
  • PJ Walker - quarterback (restricted free agent)