The Carolina Panthers, 6-10 in 2011, have rookie Pro Bowler Cam Newton at quarterback, Steve Smith at wide receiver and Ron Rivera with a year of head coaching experience under his belt.
They also have one of the best offensive coordinators, and future NFL head coaching candidate, Rob "Chud" Chudzinski, who helped transform the Panthers from the NFL's worst offense in 2010 into the league's 5th highest scoring unit at 25.4 points per game in 2011.
Though the defense struggled in 2011, the Panthers are now at the stage where they need to add key pieces to the organization and tweak a few areas on the field to take the next step towards becoming a playoff-caliber team.
However, one thing stands in the way on the free-agency front, and that is Panthers' General Manager Mary Hurney's philosophy of building the team through the draft.
While I do not expect the Panthers to trade out of their current draft positions in order acquire key players through free-egency, there is value to be found at key positions, if the Carolina front office is willing to pull the trigger.
Here are my top five free agent picks to fill the Panthers' needs in 2012.