Analysis

Carolina Panthers Free Agency Outlook

Carolina Panthers Free Agency Preview

The Carolina Panthers had another promising start to their season as they started the 2021 campaign with a 3-0 record, but it was not long until everything would start to go wrong for the Panthers. Star running back Christian McCaffrey was injured for the second consecutive year and the Panthers proceeded to only win two of their next 14 games, making it the second year in a row that Carolina finished with just five wins. In the process of this slump, the Panthers parted ways with OC Joe Brady and brought in former Giants head coach and 33rd Team alumnus Ben McAdoo. There is no doubt that the defense looks promising with players such as Brian Burns, Jeremy Chinn, and Shaq Thompson, but the offense was not nearly as effective without McCaffrey on the field. There are many questions that the Panthers will need to answer under center as it is becoming  clear that neither Sam Darnold, Cam Newton, or P.J. Walker is the long-term solution at that position. The Panthers are in for an intriguing offseason. 

Carolina’s Impending Free Agents:

  • CB Stephon Gilmore
  • CB A.J. Bouye
  • DE Morgan Fox
  • C Matt Paradis
  • QB Cam Newton
  • S Juston Burris
  • RT Trenton Scott
  • CB Donte Jackson
  • RG John Miller
  • CB Rashaan Melvin
  • RB Ameer Abdullah
  • WR Alex Erickson
  • P Lachlan Edwards
  • S Sean Chandler
  • WR Brandon Zylstra
  • EDGE Marquis Haynes
  • LB Jermaine Carter Jr.
  • IDL Mike Panasiuk (ERFA)

The Panthers’ list of free agents is an extensive one with many of their starters from this past season on this list. To start, the biggest names are cornerbacks Stephon Gilmore and Donte Jackson and EDGE Haason Reddick. These players were all integral parts to one of the burgeoning defenses in the NFL, but they could very well walk in free agency to either sign with a Super Bowl contender or to sign a bigger contract than the Panthers are able to give. They will most likely be the players the Panthers put more emphasis on to bring back. Moreover, the Panthers also have two starters from their offensive line on this list, and this is certainly a unit that will need to be fixed moving forward (more on this later). 

Franchise Tag:

  • EDGE Haason Reddick (expected $20.186 M)

Haason Reddick was one of the most important players on the Panthers’ defense this past season, accounting for 11 of the 39 sacks the Panthers had all of last year on top of 12.0 TFLs. With all of the struggles the Panthers had on the offensive side of the ball, their defense was able to keep them competitive for at least three quarters in a number of games. A lot of this had to do with the play of Reddick. While the Panthers only have about $12.36 million in cap space after re-signing a number of key players, it may be worthwhile for the Panthers to keep another key piece to their defense while they try to figure things out on the offensive side of the ball. It would be a hefty price tag for Reddick for just one year, but it could very well be worth it if he can continue to play like he has the past couple of seasons. 

Update: The Panthers elected to not use their franchise tag this offseason, and they also now have $26,562,447 available in cap space.

Top Team Needs:

  1. Quarterback
  2. Entire Offensive Line, except right tackle & right guard
  3. Cornerback
  4. WR Depth

The biggest need for the Panthers this offseason is the signal caller under center. Sam Darnold did a decent job the first few games of the year, but he quickly fell back into his old habits, while Cam Newton and P.J. Walker just could not put sustainable drives together at the latter end of the year. Carolina may be willing to work with Darnold for one more season, but it may be just as a bridge for a younger QB. Aside from quarterback, the Panthers need help all along the offensive line, aside from right tackle Taylor Moton, with two starters as free agents this offseason and an incumbent left tackle and left guard who should not be counted on for the foreseeable future. With both Stephon Gilmore and Donte Jackson as free agents and Jaycee Horn coming off of a season-ending foot injury, the Panthers could look to expand their cornerback depth, especially if they cannot retain Jackson and/or Gilmore. Lastly, Carolina’s wide receiver group was inconsistent last year with D.J. Moore garnering a lot of targets, especially at the beginning of the year. Once teams started to key in on Moore, the offense stalled and did not have their star running back to bail them out in crucial downs. Look for Carolina to add more pieces in that group in order to be able to spread the ball around more this upcoming season.