Could the Panthers have used Jason Taylor? You better believe it, but some things are not meant to be. Washington's move helped better establish them as a playoff contender and Carolina? Well, the Panthers are pinning their hopes, for now at least, on Tyler Brayton. The Carolina Panthers have made various moves this offeason to get back in a winning grove in Charlotte. They have made, arguably, the most dramatic changes in the franchise's history.
Most of the "meat" of these changes were made on the offensive side of the ball. A few bigger named players were brought in and they seem to look great so far, but the big move was trading away next season's 1st round draft pick for the chance to select 2, much needed, players in the 1st rounds of the 2008 draft.
Amazingly the Panthers did not sign a proven defensive end this offseason. They did take Rookie, Hilee Taylor from UNC. Taylor is probably better suited to play outside linebacker given his overall size, speed and style of play. But coach Fox likes Taylor's speed and feels that is what his team needs. The Panthers also signed undrafted rookie defensive end, Casper Brinkley, from USC. Brinkley is at best a work in progress and like Hilee Taylor, he could be in a bit over his head if he was plugged into the defense too quickly
The other defensive end signed is former Raider, Tyler Brayton. The former Raider had no sacks last year and I believe that is the problem the Panthers are now trying to correct this offseason (to get more pressure on opposing quarterbacks). Brayton may be a decent backup, but his numbers do not seem to support a starting position. He may wind up having a great season but all we have to go from is his past history and he does not look like the quarterback chasing "bookend" to play opposite Julius Peppers.
It almost looks as if coach John Fox knows that one of his new defensive ends, may just wind up going on to be a 15 sack pro-bowler. He may also feel that Julius Peppers will return to get his annual 10-12 sacks this season. If those scenarios played out then Carolina will once again be able to pressure opposing quarterbacks. However, if any part of this equation (a 12 sack year for Peppers and a pro-bowl type of year for one of the newly drafted or newly signed defensive ends) happens to break down then it could spell trouble.
I just find it hard to believe that Brayton, Brinkley and Taylor are going to be super productive defensive ends this season. I think there is a good chance Julius Peppers may return and be somewhat of the player he was before last season. It would cost him too much to have a lackluster season (unless he know longer cares about landing a $70,000,000 contract).
I like Julius Peppers as he has always been more than accommodating to us. He has not spoken to the press this offseason and when he does or if he does, he will not answer any contract questions. But "Pep" is the kind of guy who I actually believe the phrase "money is not everything," totally applies to. He could even tell the team to "keep their money and long term contract and use it on someone else", if he had another down season in '08. I am not saying he will play for the love of the game and be happy with the league minimum. But Peppers has more than enough financial resources to make money, not a concern. There is a very large salary "cap" hit this season for the Panthers if Pepper's contract is not restructured. Given the issues and questions that stemmed from Pepper's performance last season I could easily see this staff allowing the team to go ahead and take the salary cap "hit" this year and just wait and see if Pepper's "game" was back up to the level they expect before making a new deal with him.
I really hope Julius Peppers returns with a vengeance. However, I am not sure having a 10 sack per year Peppers on one side and having just an average defensive end opposite him is what this team needs to get to where they want to go.
So, what are the Panther's options? The "bigtime" free agent defensive ends are all spoken for. However, there will more than likely be a few bigger named defensive ends released as the season draws closer. The Panthers could wait and try to find another end that way, but that is a risky proposition. I would find it a bit of a gamble for the team to try and better themselves by relying on some other team's "cut" player to provide them a possible number 2 defensive end.
The team could work on a trade with any team but that would come to the surface fairly soon because it is getting on into or past the OTA workouts and mini camp time is right around the corner. Most teams really want all new players in the "system" as soon as possible and have enough time for them to get familiar with the way the new team does things. Now, we know Jason Taylor and Bill Parcells have butted heads or dodged handshakes as it were this offseason. They are seemingly engaged in a...spitting contest in south Florida.
Parcells does not like anyone missing camp or OTA's. Now, if you were Lawerence Taylor and you had given Parcells sweat and blood, year-after-year, then maybe you could dance on a pop TV show and miss a week of OTA's and stay in Parcells' good graces. But to Parcells, Jason Taylor is basically a fellow Parcells does not even know. Parcells could believe Jason Taylor's excuses for missing camp is all pretty silly and sets a bad example. Plus Parcells has seemed to always knock heads, usually with a star, just to prove to everyone, on whatever team he is associated with, that he, and not any player is the "man" and he is totally in charge of the team and the locker room.
If you were watching the 1st round of the 2008 draft then you probably heard a few of versions of a possible "proposition" or word of a trade, concerning the Jaguars 1st round pick in exchange for the veteran Dolphin, Jason Taylor. This was supposedly a draft day deal where the Jags, who were frantically searching for a good defensive end could work with the Dolphins, who were looking for help, trying to build a young team by using the draft. It seemed like a decent enough deal. A 1st round for a pro-bowler who could possibly give you 2 or 3 good years of play, and maybe 6-10 sacks per season (enough of a sack threat to draw double teams). Jacksonville did not make the deal.
With that in mind. I know the Panthers need a defensive end. I know Taylor is going to be expensive but the Panthers have already given up their 1st round pick next season. Would the second pick be so bad to give up for Taylor? It would seem to me if the defensive end is the one position your team really lacks and if you (the coach and gm) know you will be fired unless you make a playoff run, then it may be very tempting to take that deal. Jacksonville passed and drafted 2 rookie defensive linemen instead of the recent pro-bowler, Taylor.
The problem is now...Jason Taylor says he wants to play one more year. Not 2 or 3 like some hoped. So, if you are a coach and you are still facing losing your job unless you produce a winner then I could see possibly making the move out of fear. However, the Carolina Panthers have no 1st round pick next season and Parcells totally runs the show and may not deal at all.
The Panthers have a second round pick next season and a player or two they could trade. But is the price to high? It is in most cases yes, but in Carolina, it may not be a crazy deal. The cap could be re-worked to make it happen. If it worked and the Panthers won big, then coach Fox keeps his job and the staff can still work on developing the current ends they now have to get ready for next season.
Now, if it did not work and the team falters...Then it is not coach Fox and GM Marty Hurney's problem any longer...It would probably be former Steeler coach Bill Cowher who might be here trying to fix a team with no 1st day draft picks.
The latest news out of Miami has some believing the relationship between Taylor and the Miami Dolphin organization has not passed the point of no return. So, Taylor may soon be back on the shelf for the Dolphins to keep this season. However, until the trade deadline is over, never count out anyone's career that Parcells has a hand in.
Finally with Taylor's announcement that he wants to play just one more year, Parcells has to know that one year's play is not worth a number 1 pick especially when Taylor's contract now calls for him to receive $7.5 million this year. For a team that is a bit needy that would possibly be almost $1,000,000 per sack. If Taylor had 7 sacks next season. Costly? Yes. Crazy? A little. If the Panthers could give a 2nd round pick for him and then make it to a superbowl this season then it would be worth it.