The Carolina Panthers made a lot of news after the lockout by keeping their own players.
Some of those moves worked out well, including the decision to keep Charles Johnson and not trade Steve Smith. Some contracts don’t look so great now — the deals for linebackers Thomas Davis and James Anderson.
After spending a lot of money last year, the Panthers don’t have to worry much about free agency this time around. The Charlotte Observer listed the team’s ten free agents, and ranked them in order of priority.
The team’s biggest priorities: tight end Jeremy Shockey, defensive end Antwan Applewhite, guard Geoff Hangarter, and linebacker Jordan Senn.
It’s a good sign when a decent backup tight end that is sometimes a headache for young quarterbacks looks like the team’s biggest priority. Applewhite is a part-time player; Hangarter is serviceable guard; and Senn is mostly a special teamer.
Carolina has a lot of money committed to the salary cap next year, but they could free up some dollars if they wanted to get aggressive on the open market. Even if they don’t get aggressive, they will easily bring back all the key players that helped Carolina finish the season 4-2 in their final six games. The team will also get defensive leader Jon Beason back from injury.
In short, it’s fair to raise expectations for the Panthers in Cam Newton’s second season.