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Team needs: Carolina Panthers

Panthers' Newton is hit by Saints' Vilma during an NFL football game in Charlotte Reuters

With the NFL Draft approaching, we’re taking a team-by-team look at the needs of each club. Up next is the team with the No. 14 overall selection, the Carolina Panthers. They’re short a third- and a seventh-rounder from trades made before he got there, so new general manager Dave Gettleman needs to make every pick count.

Offensive tackle: If Marty Hurney was still the general manager, you could probably bank on an offensive lineman with one of their first two picks, as he leaned heavily toward building a strong line. But since Gettleman doesn’t have background of his own, his history with the Giants points away from using first-rounders on tackles.

The Panthers restructured left tackle Jordan Gross’s contract to make it effectively a one-year deal, and there’s no one on the roster close to being able to replace him. Right tackle Byron Bell is a try-hard guy who has filled in admirably, but they could upgrade there without much effort.

But even if you’re not thinking long-term, they have a quarterback in Cam Newton that needs protecting now, and they could do better.

Cornerback: The Panthers have more nickels than a third-grade math problem, but no one on the roster you trust to point at Julio Jones and say “sic him.”

They brought back Captain Munnerlyn, and signed Drayton Florence and D.J. Moore. That gives them a bunch of competitive, hard-working effort guys who are going to get thrown over the top of with great regularity.

After cutting the under-appreciated Chris Gamble, they need someone who can step up and play man coverage, and using the first-rounder on someone such as Xavier Rhodes from Florida State makes as much sense as anything else they’d do.

Safety: Finances have tied them to the OK Charles Godfrey at one spot, but there’s a vacancy next to him. They tried bringing in veteran Haruki Nakamura to push former second-rounder Sherrod Martin, but all that yielded was Falcons highlights.

They’ve taken a long look at the top safeties during the pre-draft process, and using one of their first two picks on one shouldn’t be a surprise.

Defensive tackle: This is a popular pick for them, but they just re-signed Dwan Edwards. That’s the same Dwan Edwards they signed last September, after the Bills cut him. The Panthers need help at the position, but the bust rate on drafted DTs is historically high, and they can’t afford to miss without a full deck of picks.

Wide receiver: The perpetual search for a complement to Steve Smith has become a search for an eventual replacement for the Panthers star.

Smith’s still good enough to be the guy, and frankly, Brandon LaFell is good enough to be the second option (his three-year stats are nearly identical to former Panthers wideout Muhsin Muhammad at the same stage).

But if they draft a receiver in the first round, it will begin the end of the Smith era in Charlotte, as the last wave of contracts given out by the previous administration start to be culled by the new guy.

The Panthers are in an interesting spot, because their finish showed they’re good enough to compete, if not necessarily contend.

But 2-8 starts the last two years under coach Ron Rivera (along with being 2-12 in games decided by a touchdown or less) has created an uncertain environment, where almost every player and coach in the building’s on a de facto one-year contract.

If they deliver on potential, the current core of players could have a few more years. If they don’t, a year from now you’ll recognize Cam Newton, Ryan Kalil, Luke Kuechly and not much else.

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18 Responses to “Team needs: Carolina Panthers”
  1. goninjagoninjagogo says: Apr 14, 2013 3:08 PM

    I thought this would be saved for last, as it would have been the most work.

  2. inyofaceagain says: Apr 14, 2013 3:16 PM

    Cam had a rough second year but has the skillset to rebound back to his rookie form. He could use a better O-line, Kalil is a beast forsure, some better WRs would help him a lot. Panthers could bounce back but they are pretenders and wont make any postseason noise anytime soon.

  3. melkipershero says: Apr 14, 2013 3:28 PM

    If they could get a tall, strong, sure handed WR 1st or 2nd round they should jump on it. Justin Hunter second round?

  4. dallascowboysdishingthereal says: Apr 14, 2013 3:33 PM

    Tavon Austin can replace Smith in the future.

  5. blacknole08 says: Apr 14, 2013 3:34 PM

    I’d be happy if we got another weapon for Cam and some Safety help. If Kenny Vacarro or Tavon Austin is there at 14 I hope that’s the direction we go in.

    I loved Xavier Rhodes at FSU and saw pretty much much every game he played as a Nole. But I wouldn’t reach for him that high. But he has great potential to be a shut down corner.

  6. grandpoopah says: Apr 14, 2013 4:03 PM

    Get Cam a weapon or two in the passing game. Patterson or Austin perhaps. Smith is a heck of a player but it’s unreasonable to expect him to be a #1 WR at his age. LaFell is more of a WR3 or WR4 talent, inapplicable statististical comparisons to Muhammad notwithstanding. Then there is Hixon (sigh) and then nada. That’s not even close to being good enough. The team has lots of holes to fill, but they need to build around their greatest asset in Newton first and foremost. He is currently working with the weakest set of receivers of any star caliber franchise QB in the league. Ryan, Rodgers, both Mannings, Brady, etc all have at least two or even three receiving options who would be Carolina’s top threat. What good is a howitzer if all your ammo is blanks?

  7. alecanthony says: Apr 14, 2013 4:07 PM

    This team needs secondary help badly

  8. linvillegorge says: Apr 14, 2013 4:27 PM

    I’m a big Panthers fan and mostly agree with this write up. However, I would add OG to the list. Hangartner is absolutely awful at RG. We can’t go into this upcoming season with him penciled in as a starter.

  9. wisewoo says: Apr 14, 2013 7:42 PM

    I’m really not sure what to make of the CB situation….

    We didn’t have our top two in Norman or Gamble at the end of the season which just so happened to be when we started winning games (and beat Brees, Ryan, and Rivers) without them.

    And this was also without two of our starting Safeties at the SS position (Martin/Nakamura)

  10. jiveturkeygobbler says: Apr 14, 2013 8:44 PM

    If Cam Newton was my qb, I would have strive for an abundance of speedy, play makers at wr. I think the key is depth. Yeah, having a true #1 wr is great, but having a full stable is arguably as, or even more important. The Packers are a good example.

  11. drecaldwell22 says: Apr 14, 2013 9:10 PM

    I am a huge Panther fan and a realist. Given how to Panthers played in the 2nd half of this past season, given the teams that they beat (not to mention the close games) the Panthers have a good team, a good team that can win! It all comes down to coaching, but to respond to the post, I believe that should draft Travon Austin, simply because Smith is getting older, and his future is dim in Carolina. Unless you folks are relying on Armanti Edwards to become that new number one I would suggest that pick a WR up.

  12. linvillegorge says: Apr 14, 2013 9:17 PM

    Being without Nakamura is one of the best examples of addition by subtraction that I can imagine.

  13. keylimelight says: Apr 14, 2013 9:35 PM

    Nice breakdown of the Panthers. I would like to add that they face the Saints and the Falcons twice per season. Initially, I thought they’d go for a receiver to give Cam some better targets but, second thought, I’m predicting a CB or S to better prepare for battle in their conference.

  14. shickenchit says: Apr 14, 2013 11:06 PM

    I really hope the Panthers spend a 2nd round pick on a WR. Cam Newton needs another target other than Steve Smith/Greg Olsen.

    That defense is horrendous.. there were so many times that the Panthers blew the led in the last drive of the 4th quarter. Cam Newton deserves better.

    I am a Pittsburgh fan because I was born there but I now live in North Carolina and I would love to see the Panthers/Newton succeed.

  15. kenyonsupertramp says: Apr 15, 2013 3:38 AM

    BPA or trade back. No since and reaching for a pick this year when the drop off from first to second rd isnt much. Take BPA both rounds and come out of this thing with some starters. Panthers addressed some key areas that may tip us off. The wrs scouting is for our 2nd pick, someone might be there. Our 1st pick will be a big ugly, either O or D imo.

    watchout dem panhtars

  16. kepickle says: Apr 15, 2013 5:20 AM

    Tavon Austin isn’t a true Number one WR & to besides the Bills will draft him before our pick

  17. dallascowboysdishingthereal says: Apr 15, 2013 3:13 PM

    @kepickle

    dude, Tavon Austin is better than any WR on the panthers roster right now (which actually isn’t saying a lot).

    He just may be worth trading up for.

  18. turfdaddy says: Apr 15, 2013 4:58 PM

    @ inyofaceagain

    Cam had a bad year?? What are you talking about? 3869 yards passing. 741 rushing. 19 passing TDs and 8 rushing TDs. 86.2 passer rating.

    How bad of a year is that?

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