The Carolina Panthers finished their season with an 8-8 record. Not a record a lot of people would be proud of.
Every Carolina Panther fan out there is just as proud as any football fan, though, because they came back from a 4-7 record to win four of their last five games.
The Panthers kept loosing some of their top players to injuries as the season went on.
Thirty minutes into training camp, starting defensive tackle Ma'ake Kemoeatu was lost for the season, the first of three to miss time at the position.
Both starting offensive tackles Jordan Gross and Jeff Otah went down later in the season.
Linebackers fell, too. First rising start linebacker Thomas Davis, who was putting together a Pro Bowl-type year, then his replacement, Landon Johnson.
Offensive playmakers in running back DeAngelo Williams and wide receiver Steve Smith also caught the injury bug.
Plus starting quarterback Jake Delhomme injured his thumb and was replaced by the inexperienced Moore, who, fortunately for the Panthers, did a heck of a job.
Now, for a team that lost so much talent and still ended up at .500, that sounds pretty good.
So here comes a new year, and the Panthers get all of their players back and refreshed, with a new face at quarterback.
Both the fans and players will warmly welcome Moore into training camp as he takes over this offense.
With the current situation and recent history in mind, I will take a look and analyze some moves the Panthers should make, then provide my thoughts on how this offseason should go.
Because, as all Panthers know, this is going to be one crazy offseason.
First Thing's First: Julius Peppers
The Panthers couldn't make any moves last year, mostly because they didn't have the money. That money was spent on Julius Peppers, whose franchise tag enabled him to make over $1 million a game.
Don't get me wrong; Peppers had a strong season. But the thing I don't like about him is he never seems to come up when the team really needs him—only when the game's already been decided.
If Carolina re-signed him, there wouldn't be much money to spend on other needs, and the team wouldn't have the money to re-sign or acquire other players this year or in the future.
Another Problem for the Panthers: Jake Delhomme
Delhomme got a five-year, $42.5 million extension last offseason, even after turning the ball over six times during the Panthers' playoff games vs. the Cardinals.
The Panthers planned to have him as their starter for three to four more years, but that plan backfired. Delhomme was having a terrible season, throwing interception after interception, and later was placed on injured reserve with a broken finger.
Moore came in and led this team to a 4-1 record, looking just as good as anybody.
If the Panthers release Delhomme, they'll still have to pay him, but I would honestly rather have him paid to not be on the team than to pay him to stay on the team.
I think the Panthers need to get rid of him and put their confidence in Moore. Delhomme just doesn't have it anymore.
More Receiving Options
A tight end would be a good place to start. Dante Rosario has been pretty consistent and Gary Barnidge has shown signs of potential, but Carolina has always been a team that likes to use its tight ends. Ever since Wesley Walls retired, though, Carolina has failed to have a great tight end.
Tony Scheffler is looking for a new home and would be a great fit for Carolina. Bo Scaife would be another option here.
As far as receivers go, Carolina isn't far from great. Still, Smith and Muhsin Muhammad are both aging, and Dwayne Jarrett has been a disappointment (though he did look very good in the final game of the season).
The Panthers can either draft a receiver early or look into free agency, where there is an opportunity to be a nice selection if enough of them don't re-sign with their current teams.
Those are mostly very high-profile guys, so if Carolina wanted to go for the lower-profile guys, they could pick up Jason Avant, Davone Bess, Mark Clayton, Josh Reed, or Domenik Hixon, as all are scheduled to be free agents this offseason.
In my opinion, I think the Panthers should trade for Minnesota receiver Bernard Berrian, who struggled to get into the rotation with star receivers Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin and may be left on the outside looking in there.
A Revamped Offensive System
John Fox is a great coach. He's taken this team a long way since he was brought here, and the fault of this team's season does not rest on his shoulders.
By all means, Fox should be kept for at least one more season.
Still, Carolina needs to stop being so conservative. How many times do you see Carolina go with a run on a 3rd-and-10 and pick up one yard? It's too many to count.
The Panthers need to add a young playmaker to this offense. Their running game is unbelievable, so it won't take much. But with the money saved from letting Peppers go, the Panthers will have the cash to do that.
Along with some guys on the defensive side and players getting healthy, I see no reason why Carolina won't be Super Bowl-bound next season.
We're in for a very crazy offseason.
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