Thursday, January 23, 2014

5 things the Panthers should do in 2014 offseason



Bank of America Stadium is under renovation, as this picture I took Wednesday from The Charlotte Observer parking lot makes obvious. Check out the logo on the left -- gone! There have been men crawling all around the top of the stadium like ants like this week, and I hope they are being paid well to do it.

In the meantime, the Panthers themselves are under renovation, too. As the wounds from the 23-10 playoff loss to San Francisco slowly get cauterized, I am asked more and more by Carolina fans to look forward, not back. So here quickly -- and without a lot of explanation since we've got the whole offseason for that -- are five things I would do in the next six months if I were Panther general manager Dave Gettleman. I have already advocated extending the contract of coach Ron Rivera, so this focuses on what the Panthers should do on the playing field.

1) Find a big-time wide receiver. Can you imagine what Cam Newton would be like if he had a Dez Bryant or a Calvin Johnson or a younger version of Steve Smith? Many of the Panthers' passing-game problems would evaporate. I don't want Smith to go anywhere, but there has to be a reliable option on the other side, and it's not Brandon LaFell. The No.28 overall pick should be used either on a wide receiver or on an offensive lineman. Free agency also is an option. I would be fine with Gettleman re-signing Ted Ginn, but as a No.3 receiver, not as a No.2.

2) Improve the offensive line. Left tackle Jordan Gross is still on the fence about returning to the team. I think Gross will eventually say, "Yes, I'll come back," but either way, the Panthers must replace him before long and they also need an upgrade at right tackle. Those running backs that the Panthers have plowed so much money into -- you just can't let those guys get hit two yards behind the line of scrimmage on every other down. If I were Gettleman, I'd try for "hog molly" offensive linemen twice in the first three rounds of the May 8-10 NFL draft.

3) Figure out how to keep defensive end Greg Hardy. I think the franchise tag may be the likeliest bet.

4) Upgrade the defensive secondary -- but don't turn it completely over again. Re-signing safety Mike Mitchell and cornerback Captain Munnerlyn to medium-sized contracts would be a good start.

5) Extend quarterback Cam Newton's contract. One way or the other, this must happen. The Panthers still have him under contract through 2014, but the two players they most can't afford to lose in the next few years are Newton and middle linebacker Luke Kuechly.

30 comments:

since 1994? really observer said...

Scott says...oh wait, eighty percent of your readers already know what you will say. To most football fans, your articles are boring and predictable.

Scott says..what happened against the 49ers?

Too many penalties, poor redzone execution, blah blah blah.

Scott says...what do the panthers need this offseason?

Blah, blah, blah.

Surprise us one week and write something that requires a little thought from your readers why dont you? Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Why do I keep the name of that thug Dez Bryant pop up? We do not need that type of disruptive bum anywhere on the team!!

A Calvin Johnson type - a resounding YES!! He is a classy, talented player!

Anonymous said...

Absolutely agree with the need to upgrade the number 2 receiver and begin the process of grooming Steve Smith's successor. But, I also think they need to look at running back. Williams has reached age 30 and Stewart can't seem to stay healthy. Was disappointed to hear Gettleman say he's comfortable with the running backs he has. They could save some $$$ by ridding themselves of one of the big running back contracts and bringing in someone with younger, fresher, cheaper legs.

James Edgar said...

You are right, the WR we need is not Brandon LaFell. It is Ted Ginn. Pay him whatever he wants. Now.

Anonymous said...

Obviously Anon 2:38 is completely ignorant of reality. We can NOT save $$$ as this person stated. If we cut either J Stew or D Will we owe MORE $$$ against the cap next year. Long term yes, short term no. make it through next season and then we can finally rid ourselves of one or both of them.

Anonymous said...

I agree with all of the above. Especially the running back situation. Time to retool the backfield. Good backs can be had cheaply. Spend the money on the offensive line and a top notch receiver.

Anonymous said...

I will say this about the readers, and forego any comment about the writer. This team is supported by a bunch of loser mentallity driven individuals. You don't want a Dez Bryant cause you don't know anything about passion or winning. Do you know what kind of person you have to be to just believe in yourself, back it up, and still be a high quality producer?

How about concentrate on your production to the team. You don't yell in the stands, you would never be considered a twelvth man, and at the first chance you get you run back to the team of the town you're originally from. Focus more on what you can contribute to this team and stop acting like you've ever stepped on a field except to get your hat or t shirt signed.

I think Dave Gettleman is the piece we really needed, then a true OC. What good is a big time receiver if the schemes won't get him open.

Jeremy said...

great ideas scott... though how do you propose we do this with $16mm in cap space? $12mmish to franchise hardy, Gross shouldn't make less than he did this year, Mitchell should get $3-4mm based on his age and the year he just had... and you need money for the draft picks. and we haven't even talked about extending Cam yet.

So... like I said, great ideas. Next time maybe have some ideas on the potential practical application of those ideas.

Scott Fowler said...

Thank you Anonymous 3:15 p.m. -- alias Dave Gettleman (just kidding). The easiest way to do this, unfortunately, is to let Hardy walk -- all the rest could be done if that happens, but Hardy is just too good a player to let that happen easily. It may though. Restructuring is a DG specialty and will clear much more room. There will be, inevitably, a number of cuts of veterans to free up room. $16M is far from a stagnant number.

Anonymous said...

renew Cam's contract-- rah rah rah-- Let remember that Cam sat at home last weekend and watched the play off games like 28 some other guys-- he's just a quarterback -- lets not get carried way-- oh wait- its The Observer you don't report facts your cheer like the chamber of commerce--

Anonymous said...

Brandon LaFailure was the greatest...I hate to see him go

Anonymous said...

The OC position needs to be upgraded -- either Shula is required to improve the schemes and the play-calling or someone better is brought in. Ask Joe Gibbs to recommend an offensive consultant. The team needs to score more points to remain competitive

Anonymous said...

If I am the GM I focus on the draft, keeping Mitchell, Captain, Gross and Hardy: For the draft I would do this:

Round 1) OT
Round 2) WR
Round 3) RB
Round 4) OG
Round 5) CB
Round 6) WR
Round 7) OG

Fanchise Hardy and put off resigning Cam until after next season when the team has more money to spend.

Anonymous said...

I don't know what's dumber, 2:17PM: taking the time to reading an article by someone you believe has not ability or taking the time to post a critical response to an article you read by said writer. Oh, and Mr. 2:25PM, we all know what you mean by 'thug'. It's probably a good thing that you two keep your names anonymous. As for Mr. Fowler's assessments, the team also needs to shore up at LB (LK and TD had great years but we do need to have reliable backups. The other needs he identified were on point.

Clay said...

Hey Jeremy/3:15

Since you're such a football genius why don't you share your brilliant ideas with us regarding what the Panthers should do, and can do to be better next season.

It's easy to be a critic, anybody can do that.

Try posting something constructive.

Anonymous said...

Hakeem Nicks. Let's bring him back home to Charlotte.

Anonymous said...

Remember last year's draft - Carolina should have had pick #74 (third round) but traded it to take Frank Alexander in the fourth round of the 2012 draft.

San Diego drafted Keenan Allen two picks after that #74 Carolina gave up. That hurts.

Jason said...

The priorities are OT and CB and we need 2 of each, one of each must be a starter. WR is a distant third in terms of need. Re-sign Ginn and LaFell, get Nicks for cheap, and take a flier on a 4th or 5th rounder.

Anonymous said...

Looking at the current mock drafts, unless a true Hog Molly falls to 28 (Martin, Robinson, Kouandjio, Lewan)- which is entirely possible - I see the Panthers going CB like Darqueze Dennard or (more likely) Justin Gilbert. Sammy Watkins will be long gone at 28 as will Mike Evans. I don't think Marqise Lee is what the Panthers are looking for, but like the dimension Kelvin Benjamin brings to the receiving corps.

It will be an interesting draft to say the least.

E DePazia said...

WR's I feel Gettleman should consider Scott, are Allen Robinson, 6'2", who can leap out of the stadium or Brandin Cooks, 5'9", who is a Steve Smith II but faster. On the FA market, if G'man stays true to form, he may bring in Hakeem Nicks (Charlotte native) from the Giants, which just might rejuvenate his career playing at home and in front on family and friends. Re-sign Tedd Ginn, Jr. and say farewll to Virgin Hands, Brandon LaFell because he hasn't prove anything in the 4 years he's been here. A sleeper of a steal would be to draft RB James Wilder, Jr. (Florida State) in the 4th or 5th round. He's a bruiser of a back and very hard to bring down. Rds 3 & 3 work on DB's/Safety and O-line. WR Benjamin (Florida State) would be a good bet too, but would need play makers around him to be effective. More than likely though, he'll be gone before the 28th pick as well as Robinson (hope not).

Anonymous said...

If we want a receiver give a first round pick and stewart to the browns for josh gordon

Anonymous said...

Jason (above) is correct. WR is a DISTANT 3rd in need compared to O-line and D backfield. Everyone needs to STOP with this infatuation over "skill positions". The Panthers are FINE at receiver, and they're fine at RB. Get an O-line that can actually run and pass block, and everything else will fall into place.

Anonymous said...

Don't give a first round pick to any team for any player. The root cause of most of the Panthers losing seasons is trading away too many draft picks to get players that weren't worth the premium. Sean Gilbert and Armanti Edwards are the two worst examples, but Hurney gave away a lot in other dubious trades. I don't think Gettleman will bankrupt the future like Hurney did.

Anonymous said...

Look West and learn from the 49ers management team….…who signed Marcus Lattimore with a 4th round pick ? There's a very good chance he will succeed Frank Gore and become the Niner's version of the " Beast ", Marshawn Lynch… you would think the Panthers would've gambled on a local hero, but no…...

Jeremy said...

Alright clay, here are a few thoughts...

1. Don't touch Cam's contract. We've got him for the next two years at below market rates plus a 3rd year via the franchise tag. Plenty more pressing needs and his cap number this year is nothing comparatively. He's not going anywhere for a long time, but no need to address now.

2. Keep Kraken. CJ is halfway into his monster contract, so only a few more years to deal with his cap #s. Hardy is young and having a top tier front seven will continue to hide our deficiencies in the secondary. Franchise tag if necessary, some form of structured contract would be great, but he's a guy you want around for another 5+ years at that position.

3. Pray Gross wants to return one more year, but draft an OT anyway in the 1st round if there's a good one there. With silatou and Kalil we're solid in the middle, kugbila or bell can compete at RG, so we need two starting tackles. Hopefully gross is one of them! but we need another. Plus tackles have historically had much higher hit rates in the first round of the draft than other positions, especially WR.

4. Try and restructure a few more contracts, namely J Stew and Godfrey. Cutting Godfrey only saves $2mm, but a Mitchell/Godfrey tandem would be pretty solid. So think it's worth keeping CG. Restructuring J Stew has the potential to be the gold mine restructure, but who knows how that'll play out.

5. Keep ginn and Mitchell, lose Captain and Lafell. Ginn is a good 3rd/4th WR and a beast On STs. Mitchell is simply a beast. Both should be reasonable contracts and both seem like they want to be back. LaFell simply isn't good enough. I love captains mentality, but he's too short to cover the outside and too slow in the slot. He's a backup looking for starter money... Math just won't work IMO.

6. Draft is easy - OT, WR, and cb. Pick the best in each round and fill those needs. We need a starting CB opposite Melvin and depth, we need playmakers at WR and we need OL depth. Maybe a LB late in case Blackburn doesn't stay, may need some depth there too.

Anonymous said...

When is everyone going to admit that Cam is not that good of a Quarterback. He can't handle pressure and is fortunate that he has the ability to run. If not for that ability he would have been benched long ago.

Anonymous said...

Chris Johnson may be available. After he recovers from surgery, we need to try and grab him. Not saying DWill and JStew aren't good, but I'd give him a good hard look...CJ and Cam? Think about it....

Anonymous said...

Scott, loving the ideas. I feel like some of the commenters don't understand how much work Dave Gettleman and other general managers actually do. They restructure contracts all the time to make cap space. It's not that hard when you have good character guys that care about the team. Also, I think this a great read, I don't understand the comments that continually blast you for content. This is an interesting subject and I am glad you wrote it. Receiver is definitely a huge need along with offensive line and DB's. I would love for that receiver out of vanderbilt or maybe even working out some sort of trade with one of our running backs preferably Stewart but he can't stay healthy to save his life. I am very excited to see how Gettleman handles this offseason. How much money will we eventually give Hardy? He is absolutely crucial to our future success. Will we pay him more than Charles Johnson got paid? Will be interesting to see.

Not slow said...

For at least the 100th time, Cam WILL NOT RESIGN HERE, not for any money or any length of time. He wants to move to a large market where he can become the "entertainer" he desires to be.

This is fact, not speculation. When Cam's manager finally admits as much (sometime after next season) you all will say to yourself "Gee, he did know!".

Anonymous said...

Post Super-Bowl....how many of you still want to draft a WR? All the skill receivers in the world, and even the best QB(!), don't matter. If you don't have an O-Line that can protect, and the defense is a beast, it doesn't matter who you have throwing or catching.