NFL Free Agency: Should the Carolina Panthers Bring Back Jeremy Shockey?
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After the way the Carolina Panthers offense performed last season it would make sense to bring back most (if not all) of their offensive players.
The Panthers’ tight ends were particularly productive last season. Jeremy Shockey and Greg Olsen had 995 receiving yards and 9 touchdowns. One would think that production would be enough to bring back the pair.
Shockey not only added a veteran presence to the team, but he and other players like Cam Newton provided much needed energy that helped rejuvenate the Panthers' organization.
Unfortunately, Shockey only signed to a one-year contract prior to the 2011 season, and despite his performance, he has not re-signed with the Panthers for the 2012 campaign.
There may be a number of reasons for why he hasn’t been re-signed.
First, Shockey comes with a lot of baggage. He hasn’t been the quietest player in and out of the locker room. In the past, he’s managed to be quite open about his disagreement about being traded and/or released by his former teams - the New York Giants and New Orleans Saints.
The most recent issue with Shockey comes with his speculated affiliation with Bounty-gate. It was Warren Sapp that called Shockey the "snitch" but according to ESPN, Shockey denied having such a role. And although some have come to Shockey’s defense, including the Saints head coach, Sean Payton, this whole ordeal still managed to hurt Shockey’s image and chances of joining another team.
Should the Panthers Bring Shockey Back?
That’s too bad for Shockey. After watching him last season with the Panthers, it appeared that Shockey, 31, still has some game left in him and could still rank among some of the more productive tight ends in the league.
In this case, I don’t think the issue of "baggage" is the reason why he hasn’t re-signed with Carolina. Panthers head coach Ron Rivera even came to Shockey’s defense about the whole “snitch” ordeal.
If anything, the issue is whether Shockey really wants to play for Carolina or whether he thinks going back to Carolina is like settling for whatever team will sign him. I think there's a good chance this is true, considering the NY Daily News reported that Shockey recently expressed interest in returning to the New York Giants.
There are a lot of reasons why Shockey would want to go back to the Giants. They are a Super Bowl caliber team. However, if Shockey really wants to return to Carolina then his expressed interest in returning to his former team doesn’t help his chances on being a Panther again.
But there are other reasons why Shockey isn't currently a Carolina Panther. The Charlotte Observer reported that the Panthers may not sign Shockey because they won't meet Shockey's monetary demands. I found this report to be especially interesting. I think the fact that Shockey is asking for too much money shows that he is not committed to staying a Panther.
Although I mentioned that Shockey is still productive for his age, I don’t think Shockey is really in a position to make such strong demands. He’s had his issues with injuries and his ability to create space between him and a defender has been in decline over the years. Keep in mind, at this point in his career, he's a lot slower than a lot of other tight ends, including some of Carolina’s current tight ends, particularly Olsen and even Gary Barnidge.
Shockey’s stats also don’t help his chances; he had a career-low 37 receptions in the 2011 season.
And finally, the return of Barnidge might be another important reason why Shockey might not be brought back and why his monetary demands have not been met. The Panthers were interested in Barnidge’s speed and his potential at becoming a deep threat. This, of course, was before Barnidge broke his ankle and was out the whole season.
The fact that Barnidge is coming back from an injury could cause concern about their depth at that position. If Barnidge cannot fully recover from his injury then signing a tight end like Shockey would seem like the smart thing to do. Yet at the same time, the Panthers might have some other tight ends that they would like to go to before Shockey.
There, of course, may be a chance the Panthers could bring Shockey back later on - as in, after they have taken a good look at their team as a whole, especially as they get closer to the preseason. Who knows if Panthers will give Shockey another look; I think it matters a lot on whether Shockey is willing to lower his price, and I think he should.
Nonetheless, the fact that the Carolina and Shockey haven’t gotten anywhere yet is not a good sign for Panther fans who want to see Shockey back in a Panther uniform.
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