The Carolina Panthers took one on the chin in 2016 as they missed the playoffs after being so close to winning the Super Bowl the previous season. As they get ready to go into what is an important offseason there are many holes that must be filled. The Panthers roster is made up of vets with a few inexperienced players sprinkled down the line. It was that inexperience that may have cost them a NFC South repeat but, Dave Gettleman has a chance to shed the cheap tag that has been placed on him and find suitable talent in the FA market.
Here are Five Potential Free Agents Targets for the Carolina Panthers.
Victor Cruz (Wide Receiver)
The Panthers are in dire need of someone who can open the field up for Kelvin Benjamin. With Ted Ginn hitting the market, the Panthers may be looking to move on. Corey Brown still has a roster spot but other than that, the Panthers are thin at the position. Cruz is not the pass catcher he once was but with Odell Beckham’s stock rising it was known that Cruz’s production would take a hit. The New York Giants released the veteran WR and that should bode well for the Panther chances. Cruz must understand that he’s not a No.1 threat anymore which should make his salary demands more suitable for the tight-pocketed Dave Gettleman.
Kawaan Short (Defensive Tackle)
You must take care of your own. The Panthers are built on defense and Short is one of the main reasons why they were able to make that statement. But, his rookie contract is up and it’s time for him to be paid. Productive tackles are hard to come by and to be able to lock one up with Short’s talent is a must. His market value has him at 5/$87M with an annual salary in the $17M ballpark. Knowing Gettleman he may balk at that number and will be forced to gamble with a young stud much like he did with Josh Norman last season. Short ended last year with 6.0 sacks but a lot of that was due to the secondary not covering and the loss of Luke Kuechly.
Prince Amukamara (CornerBack)
The Panthers figured that one player could not make a difference and last season they were proved wrong as their secondary and defense struggled with the absence of Josh Norman. The Panthers drafted enough cornerbacks to field a starting unit and while there were some great plays made, it was evident that Gettleman made a huge mistake. Prince Amukamara has dealt with injuries in his first few seasons in the league while with the New York Giants but he proved his worth with the Jacksonville Jaguars as he played 14 games (most since 2013). He will not provide much in terms of interceptions (7 in his career) but he’s a fast defender that many WRs won’t be able to get a step on.
Alshon Jeffery (Wide Receiver)
Here’s the thing with the wide receivers in this year’s free agent class. They are good but the majority have either trailed off or have not lived up to their expectations. Alshon Jeffery fits in the latter of this group. He has the skills to be a Pro Bowl player but he has yet to play like one on a consistent basis The Chicago Bears have said they will not Franchise Tag him again this year, making him free to sign with anyone. His stats are modest but he’s lacking those explosive seasons that he had in 2013-14. His last two years have been worthy of being labeled a No.3, not as a primary threat. The Panthers should be able to get him on a cheap 3/$20M contract, especially with the concerns of some off the field issues.
Mario Williams (Defensive End)
Williams has had his bright moments in the NFL but lately, it has fallen apart for him. He has 97.5 sacks in 11 years and that’s including his down seasons in 2015 and 2016 with the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins. What Williams needs to do is come home to North Carolina. The Panthers can sign him to a cheap one-year deal and see if he’s motivated enough to redeem himself as it’s clear his production is in the decline. What makes Williams a great choice for the Panthers is his ability to play the defensive line and LineBacker. The Panthers need insurance in case Kuechly suffers another concussion.