Fix-it Friday: The Carolina Panthers

The Panthers entered a rebuild last season; moving on from Head Coach Ron Rivera and QB Cam Newton, after 9 seasons together, resulting in one Super Bowl appearance.

They hired former Temple Head Coach Matt Rhule and signed QB Teddy Bridgewater in free agency. They finished the season 5-11, about where they were widely predicted to finish.

They are now officially in the second season of their rebuild, so this article will follow that strategy.

Head Coach and General Manager:

Matt Rhule and new General Manager Scott Fitterer are not going anywhere soon. Rhule is the current face of rebuilds in football. His last two stops, at Temple and Baylor, resulted in dramatic turnarounds for the programs in just a few years. Based off his first year in Carolina, there is a good chance things with the Panthers go the same way.

Cap Space: $39.9 million

Cut/Trade:

The Panthers have already announced the releases of Kawann Short, Tre Boston, Stephen Weatherly, and Michael Palardy. These moves will result in freeing up roughly $20 million in cap space. The cap space number above already includes these cuts. With the cap space projecting to be much lower than anticipated this year due to the pandemic, we don’t know exactly how much any team’s cap space will be. These numbers are just for reference.

Re-sign:

John Miller, IOL

Tyler Larsen, IOL

Curtis Samuel, WR

Taylor Moton, OT

Rasul Douglas, CB

I know most Panthers’ fans are hoping to have Mike Davis back, but the way he performed in place of Christian McCaffrey this season, I don’t see the Panthers wanting to spend the money to bring him back.

Free Agency:

I want to start this section off with the rumors regarding Deshaun Watson. If the Panthers can strike a deal with the Texans for Watson, they should absolutely do that. Watson with Rhule and Offensive Coordinator Joe Brady would be nothing short of incredible. They may have to give up McCaffrey, several first round picks, and maybe other players, but it would be worth it.

Tier One:

Brandon Scherff, G

Joe Thuney, G

Matt Judon, EDGE

Hunter Henry, TE

Shaquill Barrett, EDGE

Tier Two:

Melvin Ingram, EDGE

Mike Pouncey, C

Corey Linsley, C

Bud Dupree, EDGE

Patrick Peterson, CB

Yannick Ngakoue, EDGE

Lavonte David, LB

Alex Mack, C

Markus Golden, EDGE

K.J. Wright, LB

Jadeveon Clowney, EDGE

Alejandro Villanueva, OT

Jason McCourty, CB

Leonard Floyd, EDGE

Mike Hilton, CB

Olivier Vernon, EDGE

Jared Cook, TE

Keanu Neal, SS

Desmond King, CB

Tier Three:

Tyler Kroft, TE

Ryan Kerrigan, EDGE

Kyler Fackrell, LB

Everson Griffen, EDGE

Sean Lee, LB

Austin Blythe, G

Jimmy Smith, CB

Daryl Williams, OT

Matt Skura, C

Quinton Dunbar, CB

Chidobe Awuzie, CB

Jason Verrett, CB

Shaquill Griffin, CB

Levi Wallace, CB

Draft:

Round One:

8th Overall:

Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State

Zach Wilson, QB, BYU

Rashawn Slater, OT

Patrick Surtain II, Alabama

Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State

I will go on record saying that I do not believe the Panthers will be picking at 8. They may trade it for Deshaun Watson, or they may trade it to move up in the draft for a QB. If they decide to stick with Teddy Bridgewater, they can go the other three guys listed here.

Round Two:

39th Overall:

Liam Eichenberg, OT, Notre Dame

Wyatt Davis, IOL, Ohio State

Quincy Roche, EDGE, Miami

Eric Stokes, CB, Georgia

Nick Bolton, LB, Missouri

Besides a potential QB upgrade, the Panthers need to upgrade the offensive line. If it doesn’t happen in the first round, it should be the top of the list with this pick. They can also address a few defensive positions that they didn’t hit too hard last draft.

Round Three:

73rd Overall:

James Hudson, OT, Cincinnati

Josh Myers, IOL, Ohio State

Michael Carter, RB, UNC

Greg Newsome II, CB, Northwestern

Pete Werner, LB, Ohio State

Once again, if the Panthers have not addressed the offensive line, they need to do so here. They can also double up in this draft with a tackle and guard/center. Whether they don’t resign Mike Davis, or they trade McCaffrey and re-sign Davis, Carter would be an excellent second running back.

Round Four:

103rd Overall:

Cameron McGrone, LB, Michigan

Tommy Tremble, TE, Notre Dame

Jaret Patterson, RB, Buffalo

Ifeatu Melifonwu, CB, Syracuse

Jordan Smith, EDGE, UAB

Okay, offensive line should be addressed by now. So we can move onto some other positions that can use upgrades. There is a hole at tight end with the Panthers. They have a great receiving corps (hopefully Curtis Samuel re-signs), but tight end can use a boost. The other positions follow the same train of thought as before.

Round Five:

134th Overall:

Tony Fields II, LB, West Virginia

Kenny Yeboah, TE, Ole Miss

Shakur Brown, CB, Michigan State

Wyatt Hubert, EDGE, Kansas State

Javian Hawkins, RB, Louisville

All of these positions follow the same strategy as before. These will all be depth pieces that need to develop, but I can see Javian Hawkins making a big impact in this rookie season.

Round Six:

168th Overall:

Justin Hilliard, LB, Ohio State

Marco Wilson, CB, Florida

Tre McKitty, TE, Georgia

Ihmir Smith-Marsette, WR, Iowa

Malcolm Koonce, EDGE, Buffalo

Paris Ford, S, Pitt

Khalil Herbert, RB, Virginia Tech

I wanted to give a lot of options for the Panthers with their last pick in the draft. Almost an position can be addressed, including receiver, even if they do re-sign Samuel. This safety class is really deep. Now-former rookie Jeremy Chinn was drafted as a safety, but primarily lined up at linebacker. He was used as a safety on obvious passing downs, but if the Panthers can find a starting linebacker in free agency or early in this draft, I would like to see Chinn move to primarily safety. Therefore, I made linebacker more of a priority than safety for the Panthers in this article.

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