Note to readers: I'm going to do a live chat on CharlotteObserver.com from noon to 1 p.m. Friday. So if you've got a few minutes to spare at lunchtime, stop by. It's always a lively discussion. We'll talk Panthers, NFL free agency, college hoops and whatever else is on your mind.
A few thoughts on the eve of NFL's free-agency period:
-- So Carolina's (soon-to-be former?) CB Ken Lucas turned down a trade to the Detroit Lions?! Hey, wouldn't you?
-- I keep getting distracted when I hear that "Brooks & Dunn" got released by Tampa Bay this week. What, were those supposed to sing a country version of the Star-Spangled Banner on Opening Day or something?
-- On a more serious note, Tampa Bay has really positioned itself to make some quick free-agency strikes. That makes them a major NFC South contender yet again. It's just the opposite of the Panthers, who are just trying to get their financial heads above water after the Peppers/Gross Twin Towers of salary-cap strapping deals.
Here's an interesting chart from the NFL Network's Adam Schefter, who is a trustworthy guy. Having been around the NFL for 20 years now as a reporter and columnist, I'd rank Schefter as one of the top NFL information men in the business, along with The Observer's own Charles Chandler who writes a lot of our popular "Inside the Panthers" blog, Sports Illustrated's Peter King and ESPN's Chris Mortensen and John Clayton. There are more really good NFL reporters out there, those are just the 5 names that come to me right away. If one of those 5 print it, you can generally count on it. Anyway, this comes directly from Schefter's blog:
(From NFL.com's Adam Schefter)
"On the eve of free agency, some teams are positioned too well, and others not so well. Based on numbers gathered Thursday — and these are fluid, changing with each roster move that each team makes — here are the teams with the most and least salary-cap room heading into the start of free agency."
TEAMS WITH MOST ROOM
Tampa Bay — $61 million
Kansas City — $57 million
Philadelphia — $48 million
Denver — $37 million
Green Bay — $34 million
TEAMS WITH LEAST ROOM
Carolina — $1.9 million
New England — $3.2 million
Indianapolis — $6.6 million
Pittsburgh — $7.4 million
Washington — $8.1 million
(Note: Washington managed to sign DT Albert Haynesworth in a huge free-agency deal Friday, which just goes to show you how elastic the salary cap is if you massage it enough with extensions, cuts, etc.)
So that leads us to this list, from NFL.com's Pat Kirwan, of the top 50 free agents expected to be available at 12:01 a.m. Friday. As for the Panthers and this list, as Howard Jones once sang: "You can look at the menu, but you just can't eat..."