Carolina Panthers Free Agents: Who Stays, Who Goes?
This offseason is arguably the biggest one in Panthers franchise history.
Not only do they have the first overall pick, a huge amount of cap space and the owner leading the charge in the current labor negotiations, but they also have 28 free agents, almost half of the team.
The Panthers went 2-14 last season; not everyone will be returning. But they do have a solid group of players they need to bring back to Carolina next season—assuming there is a next season.
Players Who Should Hit the Road
QB Keith Null
QB Brian St. Pierre
WR David Clowney
WR Charley Martin
C Chris Morris
T Rob Pettiti
LB Abdul Hodge
S Gerald Alexander
These players have a 50-50 chance:
QB Matt Moore
G C.J. Davis
LB Jordan Senn
K Rhys Lloyd
16. Long Snapper J.J. Jansen
Jansen has been a consistent snapper, and I fully expect him to return next season. He will not cost much, and it’s not a flashy position, but it is one where stability is needed in order to have a god special teams.
15. Safety Marcus Hudson
Hudson provided some depth in the secondary last year as he sometimes played safety, corner or even the Panthers hybrid position that they tried out last season.
Hudson’s main contribution came on special teams where he was one of Carolina’s best. Furthermore, he understands he is primarily a special teams player. He is a veteran that will come at little cost and will be a Panther next season.
14. Cornerback C.J. Wilson
Wilson is a lot like Hudson, only he is younger.
He has good size for a corner at 6”1, but he is mostly just a special teams player. He provides depth at the position, which could be crucial if Richard Marshall is not brought back. I would like to see more out of him next season as I do believe he will be retained.
13. Linebacker Nick Harris
Harris is in a rough situation because Carolina has too much depth at the linebacker position.
Harris will be in his third year and played mostly as a special teams player last season. When he did play he wasn’t bad as he had 1.5 sacks and 37 tackles as a fill-in. Again, the problem is he is in a fight with Jamar Williams, James Anderson, Thomas Davis, Jon Beason, Dan Connor, Jason Williams and Eric Norwood. Not everyone can be on the team.
Harris does have a chance because of his play last year and the lack of production from some of the other backups, but he may be the odd-man-out.
12. Linebacker Jamar Williams
If you don’t recall, Williams was the one the Panthers traded safety Chris Harris for. They traded our starting safety that forced fumbles half the time for a guy who had as many tackles as John Kasay.
Williams was expected to come in and compete for one of the backup jobs or even starter after Thomas Davis went down. Unfortunately, he could not stay healthy. He only played in three games and then became injured again and his season was over. I have a feeling, though, that Ron Rivera will give the former Bear a second chance, but Williams will need to step up his game a few notches.
11. Defensive Tackle Derek Landri
Landri was one of the surprise players for the Panthers.
He was given time to play due to the Panthers scrapping most of their defensive tackles last offseason. Landri took advantage of the opportunity and was Carolina’s best defensive tackle last season with 43 tackles and three sacks.
I know it doesn’t say much to say he was our best defensive tackle because of how bad the group as a whole played, but the guy went hard and started all 16 games. The only problem with him is that he’s only 6”2", 290 pounds. He is over matched often, and Brandon Jacobs is taller and possibly stronger than him.
I say he should be rewarded with a new contract, not to say he’ll be a starter next season, but to keep him for quality depth.
10. Defensive Tackle Ed Johnson
Johnson was another guy who showed his abilities because there was no one else to do so.
Johnson did decent for a guy who was supposed to be our big man at only 300 pounds. I did notice that he does have the ability to get penetration and get after the quarterback, but he needs to show greater effort on a more consistent basis. I do not know if he’ll be back as he was someone Raheem Morris wanted as part of his defense.
If I had to choose, I’d keep him on another one-year deal to see if this new staff can turn him into a force in the middle of the line.
9. Defensive Tackle Nick Hayden
Hayden rounds out the Panthers questionable tackles from last season.
Hayden had his best season with 31 tackles in 10 games started. He did poorly as the Panthers run stuffer, but the guy is only 290 pounds and is not meant to be at the nose. He goes all-out and tries his best.
Hayden will be kept because he adds depth and can still be a good tackle if he is put in the right position.
8. Tight End Dante Rosario
The tight end position might see some big changes this year, like having passes thrown to them.
Rosario led the position with 264 yards receiving last season. That number alone tells you how little the group was used. Rosario has good speed and very good hands but is not as strong a blocker as Gary Barnidge or Jeff King. He has the talent to be a starting tight end in this league.
Unfortunately for Rosario, I think his time in Carolina may be over. It has been awhile since his game-winning catch against San Diego and with the other two tight ends being bigger and better blockers, it will be hard for him to stay around. The position has been dormant for too long in Carolina and a change is needed.
7. Tight End Jeff King
King has been the starter in Carolina the last four years, and this past one was his worst.
He is a good blocker and has worked hard to get into shape, but he’s older than the other two and less athletic. It is a fight between him and Rosario, I feel, to stay on the roster, and it’s anyone’s guess as to which will stay.
Who knows, maybe both will stay or both will be gone. Whoever the quarterback is next season, they will need a tight end as a receiver—not just as a blocker.
6. Linebacker James Anderson
Anderson will be re-signed.
The guy filled in for the departed Na’il Diggs, and he did a great job. Anderson had 130 tackles, 3.5 sacks and two forced fumbles.
He played in all 16 games and started 15. Anderson, Davis and Beason are the future of Panthers football and when healthy could be one of the best linebacker groups in the NFL.
5. Linebacker Thomas Davis
Thomas Davis was lost before the season began because someone thought it be smart for him to practice without his brace.
Davis injured his leg against the Saints two years ago after a very promising start. Before Davis re-injured his leg, he had run a 4.3 40 yard dash. The converted safety is fast, has good hands and likes to hit.
He solidifies the linebackers, and the defense will be glad to have him back next season.
4. Center Ryan Kalil
Kalil started all 16 games last season, and his efforts helped him to a Pro Bowl selection.
Kalil is one of the two players the Panthers are pondering to use the franchise tag on. Kalil had a subpar season, in my opinion, even though he was an alternate and later invited to the Pro Bowl.
He looked overpowered more than usual and missed not having Keydrick Vincent and Travelle Wharton at the guard positions. He will be a Panthers, but can the Panthers work out a deal that doesn’t pay him like a tackle?
3. Defensive End Charles Johnson
Johnson had a great first season as a starter.
He said hello to the quarterback 11.5 times and finally showed all those years of waiting had paid off. For some reason he was not selected to the Pro Bowl, even though he had the seventh-most sacks in the NFL. This may turn out to be a blessing when it comes to negotiations.
Johnson will be making considerably more next year, but with any luck, the price will be reasonable and we can keep Johnson in Carolina.
2. Cornerback Richard Marshall
Marshall is one of two Panthers starters that are very questionable as to whether they will return.
Marshall expressed interest in returning, but his excess of attitude led to his public comments on how he believes he will not get offered a new deal. The guy needs to shut his yap and realize that Carolina drafts players and then usually keeps them there. Marshall had a pretty-good year with 88 tackles and 3 interceptions.
He started every game and even became the main guy after Chris Gamble was benched. I don’t know why he opened his mouth, but I can say that the Panthers will try and re-sign him. We should keep him and will only benefit from the defense-heavy staff that now runs Carolina.
1. Running back DeAngelo Williams
The Panthers’ biggest question mark this offseason is what to do with DeAngelo Williams.
Reports say that Carolina will not use the franchise tag on Williams, but what does that mean? It could mean the Panthers are satisfied with the backs they have. It could also mean that they feel more confident in getting a deal done with Williams than with Johnson or Kalil. Either way, Williams is a premier back in the NFL.
He is one-half of Double Trouble, and though, he needs to work on staying healthy, he needs to stay in Carolina. He has break-away speed and can show toughness. He is Stewart’s complement. Furthermore, he wants to stay in Carolina, and that there is enough to tell me that a deal needs to get done.
There will be many new faces next season, I just hope some of the old ones stick around.