Carolina Panthers Undrafted Free Agents: Need-to-Know for Every Signee
The Carolina Panthers wrapped up the 2014 NFL draft and came away with some players who will fill their needs and find a way to contribute when training camp opens. Dave Gettleman did not shy away from taking a player even if he played a position that did not need to be addressed.
Carolina made a small trade to move up early in the fifth round, and it only cost the pick later in that same round as well as the team's final pick in the seventh.
How this year's draft class pans out remains to be seen. For now, the Panthers can move on with the offseason process and get ready for September.
Round 1: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
Round 2: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
Round 3: Trai Turner, OG, LSU
Round 4: Tre Boston, SS, North Carolina
Round 5: Bene Benwikere, CB, San Jose State
Round 6: Tyler Gaffney, RB, Stanford
Carolina made some good headway last year when it came to signing undrafted free agents. Robert Lester and Melvin White are two players who signed with Carolina after the draft and found their way onto the roster. Each held his own and made plays when it mattered.
Gettleman would like to get the same kind of results that he did last year, but it wouldn't be a bad thing to have more than two undrafted free agents emerge as solid players on the team. After all, gems can be found anywhere.
Much like the draft grades slideshow, this will continue to track, update and evaluate each undrafted free agent that the Panthers sign.
Corey (Philly) Brown, WR, Ohio State
Weight: 190 pounds
The Carolina Panthers have locked up their first undrafted free agent following the draft. Per Jonathan Jones of the Charlotte Observer, Corey Brown signed with the Panthers. This is a nice addition since the Panthers did not bring in another receiver following the first-round selection of Kelvin Benjamin.
Just who is Brown?
Known as Philly, he led or tied for the lead in receiving for the Ohio State Buckeyes the past three years. He recorded at least 60 receptions the past two seasons, becoming only the second Buckeyes receiver to accomplish the feat. He caught 63 passes last year, which was the fifth-most in school history.
After it was all said and done, he left Ohio State with 144 receptions for 1,748 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Much like any other undrafted free agent, Brown will have to compete against the current receivers on the team and do his best to stand out. He will have an uphill battle going up against Marvin McNutt, Kealoha Pilares, Tavarres King and possibly Tiquan Underwood.
Those guys will be fighting for the two or three spots behind Benjamin, Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant on the depth chart.
Carrington Byndom, CB, Texas
Weight: 180 pounds
A testament to how deep the talent pool was in this year's draft, Byndom put up good numbers through four years at Texas and still wasn't drafted. He recorded 178 tackles, five interceptions and two sacks. He may not be a ball hawk, but he did deflect 33 passes that came his way. He has the ability to get the job done and will enter camp with a chance to prove he belongs.
He's a bit undersized, but according to Rob Rang's scouting report, Byndom can hold his own:
Byndom's lean frame allowed him to be pushed around by some of the bigger, more physical receivers in the conference, but his agility and hand-eye coordination quickly established him as a cornerback to think twice about challenging
This young man has some potential, and CBS Sports pegged him as a seventh-round pick. He should merit some attention later this summer.
David Foucault, OL, Montreal Carabins
Weight: 300 pounds
NFL talent comes from all over the globe. Whether players made their mark in the USFL, NFL Europe or even the ridiculous XFL, there have been leagues outside the NFL for athletes to hone their skills and make professional rosters.
David Foucault is from Quebec and played his college football for the Montreal Carabins. He didn't receive an invite to the NFL combine, but he did receive one for the CFL version.
He should be competing for a job at offensive tackle, and if he does well, he could earn a spot as a backup or even as a starter. An impressive performance on his part may put him in strong consideration, as there are still lingering question marks as to who will play at left and right tackle.
Byron Bell has held down the right side for the past couple of seasons and could be moved to the left. However, he has a tendency to get beaten on the outside, and that could open the door for new personnel like Foucault.
Jared Wheeler, OL, Miami (Fla.)
Weight: 315 pounds
Finding information on Jared Wheeler proved very difficult. He is listed as an offensive lineman on many of his scouting reports (Rivals.com and OurLads.com). However, enough was discovered to learn that he is an interior lineman. He is capable of playing both guard and center. This is a plus because there is not much depth behind starter Ryan Kalil.
Wheeler should go into camp and compete for a spot on the roster. He will have the luxury of not having too much competition, but nothing is ever given. He will have to prove he is worth the investment to stay on the roster. Staying healthy will serve him well as the interior struggled to stay on the field last season.
Marcus Lucas, WR, Missouri
Weight: 218 pounds
Lucas will be reunited with Missouri teammate Kony Ealy and could give the Panthers another tall receiver for Cam Newton to throw to on Sunday. Lucas is an inch shorter than first-round pick Kelvin Benjamin but is slightly faster. He has soft hands that allow him to catch many balls, but he will drop one on occasion. He needs to be more aggressive against defenders with his size, as it can be asset when fighting for a jump ball.
He was above average as a receiver at Missouri, with his best season occurring last year when he caught 58 passes for 692 yards and three touchdowns. In total, he had 130 receptions for 1,638 yards and 11 scores.
He has potential, but he has a long way to go as he could top out as a fourth or fifth receiver on the depth chart, according to his scouting report.
Denicos Allen, OLB, Michigan State
Weight: 225 pounds
He may be a bit undersized for a pro football linebacker, but his production says he can be an impact player. During his sophomore year, he had 83 tackles (18.5 for loss) and 11 sacks. He left Michigan State with 278 total tackles (46 for loss) and 19.5 sacks. His production tapered off during his final two years in school but not by much.
His size is his undoing as bigger, physical blockers can overwhelm him. Allen could be an asset on a blitz package during passing situations, and given the number of capable pass-rushers that Carolina can put on the field, he could thrive in the role.
For now, he will go through the camps. When August rolls around, it will be determined if he can compete against pro competition, or if he will be a victim of circumstance.
Shaq Rowell, NT, West Virginia
Weight: 305 pounds
Shaq Rowell is a defensive lineman who saw steady playing time the last two years. He is a nose tackle who could be a possible replacement for Dwan Edwards after the season. That is, assuming Rowell survives the cut and makes the 53-man roster.
His production, while not overwhelming, was consistent. He recorded at least 42 tackles in each of the past two years and had two sacks as well. He improved upon that mark in 2013 by getting to the quarterback four times.
Whether or not he can make it as a pro football player isn't clear. What is clear, though, is that he will be playing amongst the men who make up one of the best defenses in the league and will be challenged from the start. The tutelage of Edwards, Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short should help bring Rowell along.
Andrew Norwell, LG, Ohio State
Weight: 315 pounds
Another Buckeye graces this list, as Andrew Norwell looks to find a job on the depth chart for Carolina. He may have a chance to earn a spot on the roster as a backup and could potentially sneak his way onto the team. He will have a long road ahead of him.
Norwell wasn't invited to the combine and used the Ohio State pro day to showcase his talents. He knows what it means to be a starter and should use that experience to earn a permanent spot with the Panthers. He was the starting left guard with the Buckeyes last season, and since Carolina has had some issues at the position, he may have a chance.
It will no doubt be a new experience for him, but if he has a good work ethic and conditions himself in camp, he could surprise some people.
Darrin Reaves, RB, Alabama-Birmingham
A dark horse candidate to make the final roster, Darrin Reaves finished his final season at UAB with 934 rushing yards on 202 attempts. He found the end zone 12 times that year as well. He showed some skill as a receiver, catching 29 passes for 234 yards and two scores. He fits the prototypical model that the Carolina coaching staff wants from its backs. It should be noted that he led his team in scoring last year.
Reaves is the second running back to be brought in this month, but the first that was signed out of free agency.
He may be given a look at special teams. He did field two kicks last year and gained 40 yards total on the returns. Overall, he has three returned kicks to his credit with all of the coming in his last two years in school. Considering the lack of depth for return specialists on the team, trying out Reaves at the position makes sense. Factor in a crowded backfield and that could be his best option, but time will tell.