For at least the past decade, the Carolina Panthers have been a team averse to big free-agency signings in lieu of building the franchise through the draft.
Now that Marty Hurney is gone from the front office after being fired earlier this week, that approach may change depending on who replaces him at the general manager position during the offseason.
Regardless, Jerry Richardson needs to open up his wallet to pay some of the league's best talent to join the Carolina professional football team the way he did with homegrown Panthers DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart and Charles Johnson in the past two seasons.
If the Panthers continue their horrid season after getting off to a 1-5 start in their first five games—they could easily be 2-7 or worse after facing the Chicago Bears, Washington Redskins and Denver Broncos in their next three games—they will have a very high draft pick in the 2013 NFL draft.
However, the Panthers need to bring in at least two or three proven, quality NFL veterans this offseason to help turn the franchise around and to morph into the up-and-coming team everyone expected to see heading into the 2012 NFL season.
Here is a look at the top five NFL free agents the Carolina Panthers should pursue this offseason, along with their rankings among the top 50 free agents of 2013 according to NFLTradeRumors.com.