According to sources, Panthers tight end Jeremy Shockey is considering retirement. He may be 31 years old, but in 2011, he showed the NFL that he's still a serviceable player and capable of completing a season without missing multiple games.
Shockey was a valuable player on the Panthers offense because he understood his role and was a vocal leader. His 455 yards and four touchdowns weren't too shabby either.
The tight end is a free agent and it's not certain that the team will sign him, but it is believed that if they can get him at a number under $2.5 million, then he'd likely stay in Charlotte.
If Shockey leaves, there is then a hole at tight end behind Greg Olsen. Ben Hartsock is purely a blocker and Gary Barnidge is still a raw talent and purely a receiver.
That means the team would have to look to either the draft or free agency to fill that hole. I wouldn't expect the team to target a tight end in the second round, as they have much bigger problems to solve, but a prospect like Ladarius Green of Louisiana-Lafayette could be targeted in the later rounds.
Green, like Barnidge, remains a raw player, but has the size—6'6", 240lbs—and athleticism to make an impact for the Panthers. He'll like be drafted anywhere from the fifth round to the sixth, mainly due to his upside.
He hasn't overwhelmed scouts with great consistency on tape, but I feel that he can work out most of the kinks in his game with time. What he can come in and do immediately is enter the game in obvious passing scenarios and become a dangerous option to catch a screen and make a big play out of it—he has the athleticism to do so, much like Olsen.
In free agency, the Panthers would likely have to pay too much to get a player to fit their current style. Young players like Martellus Bennett and Fred Davis could ask for more than they'll be worth in Carolina's scheme, due to what they lack in run blocking prowess.
Therefore, it's my opinion that the team should focus on persuading Shockey to stick it out another year or target a prospect in the draft. They have too many holes to fill this year to take a chance at the top of the draft and not enough cap space to overpay a free agent.