As soon as the news hit Monday that Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis had once again fallen to the injury bug, one name immediately came to mind as his replacement: Keith Bulluck.
Bulluck brings back the leadership that Carolina lost when Julius Peppers left for Chicago and gives Carolina a proven NFL linebacker who comes in with 769 solo tackles, 15 forced fumbles, and 19 interceptions during his career.
Reports are that the Panthers are considering moving Jon Beason to Davis' spot and having inexperienced Dan Conner move to the inside linebacker position. While this is a quick fix, it does not replace Davis for an entire season.
The penny pinching Panthers cut loose Julius Peppers and Na'il Diggs during the offseason in an attempt to free up some cash and further implement their youth movement plan, which left a gaping hole in the defense for the 2010 season.
Those moves combined with Carolina's lack of depth and John Fox's need to win in 2010 to secure his own job leave no choice but to consider promoting from the outside in order to strengthen the defense as a whole.
Bulluck led the Titans in tackles six of the last seven seasons and has made it very clear that he intends to shop the free agent market in mid-June as he recovers from an ACL injury he suffered late in the 2009 season.
It appears the current leader in the Bulluck hunt is the Detroit Lions, coached by Jim Schwartz. Schwartz, the one-time linebackers coach for the Titans, really likes Bulluck and has stated that "he's a guy, among others, that we've had our eye on."
While it is in question whether or not Bulluck will be 100 percent by the start of the NFL regular season, there is NO question about his ability to be a dominant force when he is on the field.
I am sure Bulluck is already in the Panthers' sights, but the big question is, are they willing to pull the trigger and land the one free agent who can help them immediately?
Look for Bulluck to be making a stop in Carolina in the upcoming weeks. If he does, Fox might want to tear up his return ticket and clear Davis' locker for him.