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Draft needs: Carolina Panthers

Divisional Playoffs - San Francisco 49ers v Carolina Panthers Getty Images

With the NFL Draft approaching, we’re taking a team-by-team look at the needs of each club. Up next is the one with the No. 28 overall selection, the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers have one choice in each round, and with a salary cap situation that is still top-heavy, they need multiple contributors from this draft.

Offensive tackle: Despite the fixation on what was left behind after the release of wide receiver Steve Smith (more on that later), the Panthers are actually thinner in the middle of the offense than they are on the perimeter.

When stalwart left tackle Jordan Gross retired, it left them with a bunch of bad options, the worst perhaps being moving right tackle Byron Bell (who was overmatched on the other side). But other than praying that a converted defensive tackle (Nate Chandler) can be a reliable starter, they don’t have any other options on the current roster, so they might have to cross their fingers and pray Cam Newton is still mobile at the end of the season.

They did a bit of sniffing around in free agency, and put in an offer for Anthony Collins before he signed with the Buccaneers. There’s not a starting-caliber left tackle on the market at the moment, and picking 28th might be too low to find one either. But if there’s not, they might be best-served holding their nose with Bell for a year and drafting an upgrade at right tackle, which wouldn’t be hard to find.

Defensive end: Stick with me here, and this was the case even before backup Frank Alexander’s four-game suspension.

Even though they have as good a pair of starters as any team in the league, the Panthers are also devoting more than 20 percent of their salary cap to Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy. That’s not long-term sustainable, and the kind of situation that could cripple a team if one of them is injured.

While Johnson is vastly overpaid, he’s at least consistently productive (44.0 sacks the last four seasons). Franchise-tagged Hardy is more explosive, but he’s only there for another year, and there’s a reasonable concern about giving the former sixth-rounder a gigantic long-term deal.

The Panthers need some cover for future years and depth for the short-term, so if the right guy is there in the first two rounds, you can’t discount them looking to keep a strength strong.

Wide receiver: Sure, it’s an issue.

But free agent pick-ups Jerricho Cotchery, Jason Avant and Tiquan Underwood are better able to get them through a game than what they’ve got at tackle.

The Panthers have a few kids they like at the position (such as Tavarres King and Marvin McNutt), but it’s clear they’re going to dip into one of the draft’s deepest positions, perhaps twice. It’s hard to imagine they’ll get through Friday without taking at least one.

Cornerback: Much like their receiving corps, there’s not much of not there.

But they proved last year they could get by with scraps in the secondary because of the strength of their defensive front seven.

They brought in veteran Antoine Cason, who has played well for Ron Rivera before. Otherwise, it’s more of the fill-ins from last year, minus the departed Captain Munnerlyn (Vikings) and Drayton Florence (unsigned). It’s not a good group, personnel wise. But it doesn’t have to be great for the Panthers to be effective.

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7 Responses to “Draft needs: Carolina Panthers”
  1. abfox112 says: May 3, 2014 5:27 PM

    And in other news, the Panthers will continue to never have back to back winning seasons. Sheesh

  2. ak18346 says: May 3, 2014 7:59 PM

    I believe in Mr. G plan for the Panthers in 2014 and we will have money in 2015

  3. goalden7 says: May 3, 2014 8:42 PM

    Yea yea. Same news from year a year ago. A good thing these guys aren’t claiming to be psychics. They do this for the news. They do this for credibility. Nobody ever realizes how many times their wrong. The executives and coaching staff in Carolina is A class. I’m not worried.

  4. motsuret06 says: May 3, 2014 9:07 PM

    Too many holes to fill and not enough options and defininely not enough money. Bell is a turnstile and Cam will be running for his life if he wants to remain upright. It will be a rough year for the Panthers.

  5. kingpel says: May 3, 2014 9:14 PM

    I can’t believe I am burnt out on draft coverage. Never thought this day would come when I was spending $10 a piece on draft guides a few years back.

  6. louiedogg16 says: May 4, 2014 12:13 AM

    Man, I like the Panthers because their team focus is very similar to the Hawks and SanFran, but this article just makes me question their ability to make the playoffs again. Gotta get Cam something to work with on offense in order to win a Super Bowl.

  7. politicallyincorrect says: May 4, 2014 2:21 PM

    if I were Panthers.. I’d be looking QB

    Cam is OK as game manager but… not really a guy to move forward with, is he?

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