After the new CBA is agreed to early this week by both the NFL owners and the NEW NFLPA, the Carolina Panthers will have a lot of work to do in a short amount of time.
Thankfully, the new CBA will make it easier for teams to sign rookies — which is important for the Panthers, because they need to get top rookie Cam Newton on the practice field and in the classroom as quickly as possible.
The Panthers have potentially many holes to fill, with starters James Anderson, Thomas Davis, Richard Marshall and Charles Johnson all hitting the unrestricted free agent market. They’ll have to act fast to re-sign Johnson, who figures to have a lot of interest around the league.
Offensively, the Panthers could opt to let former Pro Bowl RB DeAngelo Williams sign elsewhere. Williams, who has not finished the last two seasons healthy, will turn 29 next April. Running Backs typically don’t last long after their 30th birthday, however splitting time with Jonathan Stewart and DeShaun Foster during his career, Williams has less mileage than the typical lead back in the NFL. The Panthers could opt to let Williams sign elsewhere and hand the reigns to Stewart, who would be spelled by Mike Goodson and Tyrell Sutton at a much cheaper cost.
Carolina already made a move at Tight End, signing Jeremy Shockey before the lockout began. Shockey figures to be the featured tight end, with only Gary Barnidge returning from last years’ cast. Donte Rosario and/or Jeff King may be re-signed, however, they could find roles out west with John Fox and the Denver Broncos.
It’s widely believed that the Panthers will sign a veteran QB to help the progression of both Newton and Jimmy Clausen. It still remains to be seen how raw Newton is, and how quickly the coaching staff will want to throw him into the fire. Signing a veteran could mean the Panthers would ease Newton into his role gradually throughout the season. Matt Hasselbeck, Marc Bulger, Bruce Gradkowski or Trent Edwards could fill that role.
What is known is that the Panthers will have to spend roughly $50 million this season per the new CBA. They’ve stated that they intend to sign their own — likely Johnson, Anderson and Davis — and that they’ll be aggressive in free agency. Defensive tackles such as Paul Soliai, Barry Cofield, Brandon Mebane and Tommie Harris could be targets. Cornerback seems thin as well with Marshall all but gone from the equation. Could the Panthers target a top-tier FA like Nnamdi Asomugha, or would they opt for a younger guy such as Johnathan Joseph or Josh Wilson?
Rumor has it that sometimes-volatile WR Steve Smith wants to be traded to either San Diego or Baltimore. Could a sign and trade for Vincent Jackson, the Chargers’ unhappy WR, be a solution that would benefit both teams?