Report Card Grades for the Carolina Panthers' Undrafted Free-Agent Signings
The Carolina Panthers have finally shut the door on the 2014 draft, and with the exception of signing their new rookies, the only thing left is to see what they can do on the field. The Panthers have already locked up nine rookies who went undrafted. For the most part, each signing makes sense, but a couple of them may have warranted a murmur among fans as to how they will fit with the team.
A previous slideshow broke down the nine undrafted free-agent signings. This one will touch upon their possible fit as well as grade them based on need and potential. Each rookie is unique in his own way, and the Panthers front office would like to see if those individual skills can translate onto an NFL field.
There are still the different camps and OTAs to go before anything concrete can be determined. In the meantime, let's look at what each of the nine has to offer and his potential fit with the Carolina Panthers.
Philly Brown, WR
Carolina surprised some people by only taking one wide receiver in the draft. Of course, that pick was first-round selection Kelvin Benjamin. Despite not taking another receiver in the draft, the Panthers did sign two of them from the undrafted free-agent pool.
Philly Brown was the leading receiver at Ohio State for the past two seasons, but his value may be best suited as a punt returner. In college, he returned 47 punts for 460 total yards and two scores. While Carolina may need receivers, it definitely needs guys to field punts and kicks.
Serving as the punt returner seems to be the most likely scenario for Brown. He still has the chance to work his way into the offense, but if he makes it through camp, he may be limited to special teams action while being listed as the sixth receiver on the depth chart.
Carrington Byndom, CB
It's doubtful Carrington Byndom was brought in to try out at special teams. He did well as a defensive back for Texas and could be getting a lot of looks this summer to see if he can fill a need on the depth chart.
For the moment, Carolina seems to be set with its current group of cornerbacks. However, there will come a day when the team needs to rely on its younger talent, which is more affordable over a longer period of time than a seasoned veteran who will only play for one year.
If Byndom can show promise in camp, he could become a possible option. Even if he is kept on the scout team, he could fill a need if it should ever come up.
Practicing hard and displaying a strong work ethic will go a long way for him. The Panthers have a lot of defensive backs who are young as well, and the idea could be to generate more competition and determine who among the current group is hungry enough to play at a high level.
Throwing a rookie into the mix could be the ideal solution for finding tomorrow's defensive backs.
David Foucault, OL
The need to beef up the offensive line is two-fold. It adds depth and ensures the Panthers will not have to convert another defensive lineman. Interestingly enough, Carolina only drafted one lineman, and it was a guard. Thickening the plot even more is the fact that none of the undrafted offensive linemen play offensive tackle.
David Foucault may not have played football south of Canada, but he could definitely give the Panthers another able body up front. He stands 6'7" but only weighs 300 pounds. He may not fit the traditional mold of a Dave Gettleman "hog-molly," but he should get a chance to serve as a backup to one of the interior lineman.
It's not out of the question for him to try out at offensive tackle, but if he does, he may want to add about another 20 pounds. Carolina gets some credit for bringing in a lineman, but it should have concentrated on the offensive tackle position, which is by far the greatest need.
Jared Wheeler, OL
Another offensive lineman for your reading pleasure, Jared Wheeler played his ball at the University of Miami. Much like David Foucault, he should be vying for a spot on the roster that requires a backup at either guard position or center.
It's interesting that Carolina did not sign an offensive tackle, especially when Antonio Richardson was still on the market following the draft. But, in the wisdom of former Panthers head coach John Fox, it is what it is.
Wheeler should be challenged just as much as Foucault in camp, and his performance will dictate just how far he will go.
The offensive line is very crowded, and if those who were injured last year are able to bounce back, the thinning of the herd may come from the rookie cuts later this year.
Marcus Lucas, WR
Carolina's need for receiver help has drawn some attention from the free-agent ranks. Marcus Lucas is the other receiver who will be competing for a job, and he has both height and good hands. That is not say he won't drop passes, but having a 6'4" receiver open in the end zone is always a good thing.
Theoretically, the Panthers could have three tall receivers for just such an occasion if they use Kelvin Benjamin and Greg Olsen on goal-line situations at the same time as Lucas. Benjamin and Olsen stand at 6'5".
Lucas wasn't the most impressive receiver in college, but he has the ability to be a solid fourth or fifth receiver on the depth chart. He will have to battle the other young receivers who have been with the team for a while if he plans on sticking around past training camp.
Denicos Allen, OLB
This could be one of the most interesting signings among the undrafted free agents. At 5'10", 225 pounds, Denicos Allen is undersized by NFL linebacker standards, but he can bring it. He racked up a career-high 11.0 sacks in 2011, and while he tapered off the next two seasons, he remained consistent by registering 79 and 98 tackles in his junior and senior years, respectively.
Allen is considered an underdog due to his size, but in the world of sports, everyone loves an underdog. It should be fun to see what he has to offer the talented Carolina defense. The best-case scenario is he comes out of camp and serves as a backup, but at worst, he will be cut, later picked up by Carolina and assigned to the practice squad.
He is probably the one undrafted rookie free agent who merits close attention this summer.
Shaq Rowell, NT
The Panthers don't need help on the defensive line, especially after they drafted two quality defensive tackles last year who look to be the future of the defensive front. However, Shaq Rowell was signed to the roster and could be trying out for a spot that may carry more significance following the season.
Carolina is slated to lose Dwan Edwards to free agency, and having a capable backup on the roster would be a plus rather than going out and drafting one. Of course, the past two drafts have proved that anything can happen even if there is no need at a certain position.
Rowell was consistent yet unremarkable during his final two years at West Virginia. He should be nothing more than a career backup, but anything can happen. Right now, his role will be to give the coaching staff another body to evaluate and see if he can be a productive member of the defense.
Andrew Norwell, OL
Here is another offensive lineman for the Panthers to evaluate this summer. One has to believe that one of them will be converted as an offensive tackle during camp, but for now all that we can do is speculate.
Andrew Norwell was a starting guard for Ohio State last year and has the ideal size to block on the inside. Working in his favor is the uncertainty surrounding the current offensive guards on the team, as none of them have yet to assert themselves as suitable options.
There is still the chance he gets a tryout on the outside, which wouldn't be a bad idea since nobody has been named a starter at either tackle position.
His best bet is to focus on the interior and try winning a job as an offensive guard. Even if he wins a job as a backup, it will be a great accomplishment for someone who went undrafted.
Darrin Reaves, RB
From the start, it would appear that Darrin Reaves will be competing for a backup running back job with Carolina. Third-string back Kenjon Barner may be relegated to being just a special teams player, but the Panthers need to start looking for the future backfield. That is why Tyler Gaffney was drafted in the sixth round.
How Reaves fares is anyone's guess.
He has been a consistent rusher in college and is capable of carrying the load. He had more than 200 carries the past two years. Additionally, he is a decent receiver out of the backfield and could help the Panthers in the event they are in need of a pass-catching running back.
Reaves could theoretically make the team. He has the talent and skills, but the knock against him is the lack of competition he went up against. He rushed for 84 yards and a touchdown against LSU last year, so he can run with the big dogs of the football world. Showing his toughness and ability to compete against NFL players will go a long way in securing his position on the roster.
Player information and stats retrieved from Sports-Reference.com.
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