On Monday, the Carolina Panthers traded right tackle Jeff Otah. Though Otah was a first-round pick in the 2008 NFL draft and had shown from time-to-time that he could be one of the best right tackles in the league, it was definitely time to let him go.
There are three reasons why the Panthers were right in trading Otah. First, they got a conditional draft pick back after they had given one up when acquiring WR Louis Murphy from the Oakland Raiders. Secondly, the Panthers managed to clear up about 2.7 million in cap space, and those who’ve been following the Panthers over the last few months know how important that cap space is.
But the last reason why it was right to trade Otah is probably the most significant: the Panthers finally were able to part ways with Otah.
The last reason is an unfortunate but true fact. Every Panthers fan would’ve loved to see a healthy Otah back on the field. That guy was a beast. Some will still argue that Otah was a big part of why DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart were so good in 2009. In that season, both running backs managed to rush for over 1,000 yards. It was the first time in NFL history where two running backs on the same squad rushed for 1,110 yards.
But being healthy was a lot to ask of Otah, who missed 28 out of 32 games played in the last two seasons. Many fans, such as myself, were optimistic that this upcoming season would be the season where we might get to see Otah play. But not too long ago, Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer reported that Otah was dealing with some knee issues again and had to undergo an MRI. That was the last thing anyone wanted to hear about Otah (teammates, coaches and fans included).
Otah is still young at only 26 years of age. He’s got a lot of potential and it’s no surprise that another team, like the New York Jets, were willing to take a chance on him. Of course, Otah’s stock has definitely fallen over these disappointing years. He was once worth a first-round draft pick but now he’s about as worth as a conditional (or seventh-round draft pick).
There were even some rumors floating around about how the Panthers were considering releasing Otah sometime before or during the 2012 season. If that were the case, then it would seem that the Panthers were lucky to have gained anything in letting Otah go. The Panthers have definitely made some strides in moving on from Otah. They seem committed to one of three potential starters at right tackle: Byron Bell, Bruce Campbell or Garry Williams.
It really is unfortunate that Otah’s future with Carolina had to end this way, but it was almost inevitable. I’m sure many Panthers fans would have loved to see Otah back on the field and healthy. Because if he was healthy, then we could’ve all seen that same Otah, who once dominated against any opposing defensive lineman. Remember that Otah?
However, it just wasn’t going to work out for Otah in Carolina. For Otah’s sake, hopefully he does find a way to stay healthy and do well. If Otah does in fact succeed with another team, it’ll be interesting to see how the Panthers react. It’s hard to imagine that they will regret the decision though; they’ve simply waited on him way too long.
An NFL team can only have so much patience. Eventually, it’s time to say good bye and wish him the best of luck.