Carolina Panthers Free Agency: 10 Players That Justify Spending Big Bucks
Carolina has made a name for itself as a team that builds through the Draft. They have usually just used Free Agency to add depth and every now-and-then they go for an impact player.
Recent big signings include Ken Lucas, Keyshawn Johnson, and Ma’ake Kemoeatu. Lucas was decent but wasn’t the corner thought they were getting out of Seattle. Keyshawn was supposed to replace Muhsin Muhammad but turned into Sir Drops A Lot. Kemo came in to be the space eater Carolina needed as he and Damione Lewis created a formidable tandem, but then he gets injured 10 minutes into camp and that’s the end of that.
Needless to say free agency has not been Carolina’s strong suit. This year will be different: Free Agency may decide how long Carolina’s transition will take. If Carolina spends its money and spends it wisely they can be contenders in a couple years, if not then the future will grow murkier than it already is.
Besides the Panthers own free agents, which are top priority, there are 10 options in this year’s class that Carolina should seriously consider in order to start the Rivera era right.
10. Linebacker Ernie Sims
Sims would come at a cheap price, but he would be extremely valuable at OLB, a position depleted by injuries last season. He would add depth, experience, and with Rivera as coach he could be an absolute monster.
Alternatives: Ben Leber*, Scott Shanle, and Leroy Hill
9. Cornerback Johnathan Joseph
Joseph is one half of the dynamic duo the Bengals have had the past few years. He will be a top priority for the Bengals, but this guy would be a huge signing for Carolina.
Richard Marshall has been involved since he was drafted in the second round by the Panthers. He has become, in some eyes, the best corner on the Panthers. I do expect him to be signed by the Panthers, but as insurance Joseph would be a great addition. He and Gamble can be one of the top duos in the NFL.
8. Cornerback Brent Grimes
Grimes has done nothing but work since being signed as an undrafted free agent. He has turned into one of the better cover corners in the league and again would be a great signing for the Panthers. Even if the Panthers do keep Marshall, Grimes should be considered as he is younger and cheaper than Joseph. Unfortunately, the Falcons will try hard to re-sign Grimes but he is one of those players the Panthers should fight for this off-season.
Alternatives: Drayton Florence
7. Defensive Tackle Cullen Jenkins
I understand he played in a 3-4 at Green Bay, but this guy can dominate and he’s 90% out the door and on the market. He can add veteran leadership, but at the same time he is young and could be a dominant force in Rivera’s 4-3. Not to mention, he would have the pleasure in playing for the team that drafted his brother.
Alternatives: Brandon Mebane*, Gabe Watson, Paul Soliai, and Kris Jenkins
6. Quarterback Seneca Wallace
The Panthers may have drafted Cam newton, but they need a veteran quarterback. Last season, Matt Moore was the veteran and he had started a total of 8 games in his career. This didn’t help anyone and was one of many factors that contributed to the constant struggle at the position.
Though I have never been a fan of Wallace and it is unlikely Holmgren will let him go, he performed the best last season out of the free agent quarterbacks. He would bring experience and knowledge, but at the same time compete for a starting job.
Wallace would provide Newton and Clausen time to take a step back and just watch and learn the game.
Alternatives: Marc Bulger, Billy Volek, and Kerry Collins
5. Offensive Guard Carl Nicks
Right guard is the main priority for the Panthers offensive line. The line struggled as a whole, but this particular position has been a weakness for some time. Nicks is a Pro Bowl guard and putting him next to Jeff Otah would make possibly the best right side in the NFL.
Nicks can run block and pass block. Plus, he would be coming from New Orleans giving them one less good player on their offense. The Saints will go after Nicks, but the beauty is that the Saints paid Jahri Evans a big contract last season and two more of their offensive linemen are free agents this season along with Nicks.
If Carolina ups the price, Nicks would be ours and Newton or whoever the quarterback would have all day to pass the ball. Plus, DeAngelo Williams would be more enticed to re-sign knowing that he won’t be touched so quickly after handoff.
4. Offensive Guard Harvey Dahl
Go figure that two of the best offensive guards would be from NFC South rivals, but that makes signing them even sweeter. Dahl plays right guard and he plays with a mean streak. He and Nicks should be top priorities to solidify the position once and for all. Plus, if we can steal him from Atlanta, that will hurt Michael turner and the running game.
Alternatives: Richie Incognito, Kyle Kosier, and Evan Mathis
3. Wide Receiver Malcom Floyd
The Panthers need a new #1 receiver. There are rumors that Steve Smith will be traded and Carolina needs to find someone to take the job. Since they decided to not draft A.J. Green, Free agency is the way to go. Luckily, there are more candidates this year than usual.
The first candidate is Michael Floyd. At 6-5, Floyd would make a huge target for whoever starts the season as quarterback, and for Newton later on. With Vincent Jackson likely to be retained, Floyd looks like the odd man out and would finally be the main guy if he joined the Panthers. With Floyd standing at 6-5, and Gettis and LaFell standing at 6-3, completion percentage and red zone scoring should both increase.
2. Wide Receiver Steve Breaston
Breaston was injured last season and questions still arise about his knee, but he is another special player. He has good size at 6-0 190, but he has speed and is a great route runner. He makes a good candidate because he has never been the main guy. When he started in the league he had Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, and Jeremy Urban in front of him. Now, it would be just him and Fitzgerald.
Breaston would be good because he would finally get his chance to shine and with the opportunity to play with Newton and our running game, it is more attractive than Derek Anderson. He would also solve our return-game problems.
1. Wide Receiver Sidney Rice
Rice is currently the go-to guy in Minnesota, but Favre is gone. He is also coming off an injury laden season, so he might not be back anyways. Rice is still young and would be a perfect #1 for Newton. When he had Favre, he was a top 5 receiver. Christian Ponder is nowhere near Favre. Rivera’s vertical offense would suit Rice and make the Panthers a legitimate passing team, once they get their quarterback ready.
The potential for success is higher in Carolina and he would be the impact player Carolina needs to make a quick transition into the new era of Panthers football.
Alternatives: Mike Sims-Walker