One position the Carolina Panthers targeted for upgrading this offseason was tight end. While most of the Panthers roster has young players waiting for a chance, the tight end position featured Greg Olsen and Ed Dickson. Olsen (age 31) and Dickson (age 29) are by no means “over the hill”, but developing young players behind seasoned veterans is a staple of any winning team with longevity.
So, the Carolina Panthers did what any team would do. They went out drafted one tight end and signed numerous young free agents. In fact, so many tight ends were signed that the Panthers needed to add chairs to their meeting room.
Fast forward to today and the Panthers have a real conundrum. Suddenly, they have too many solid young prospects at tight end and not enough roster spots.
Last year, Scott Simonson was a training camp guy that first worked his way onto the practice squad. Then, in October, Simonson was brought up to the regular roster where he had one catch for 10 yards on the season. Since then, Simonson has quietly improved a great deal. So much so that head coach Ron Rivera stated recently that Simonson had once again worked himself into a roster spot. If the Panthers had known how much Simonson would impress in 2016, they may not have signed so many young tight ends.
But they did, and here we are.
Rookies Beau Sandland and Braxton Deaver both have shown great promise in training camp. Both players catch the ball well and have the frame to develop their skills in pass protection and run blocking. At this point they may even be equal on the depth chart despite Sandland being drafted and Deaver signed as a rookie free agent.
Any other NFL season, at least one of these players would have made the regular roster. However, I am not so sure that is the case this year. It appears that Olsen, Dickson, and Simonson are locks for the regular roster. The Carolina Panthers have a tough choice ahead. Do they cut both Sandland and Deaver in the hopes that both clear waivers? Or do they keep a 4th tight end and not risk losing both? The Panthers have kept a 4th tight end in the past. For instance, Richie Brockel caught on as a 4th tight end.. But Brockel was a special teams ace, something neither Sandland nor Deaver are at the moment.
For the first time, it appears likely that Panthers GM Dave Gettleman may have to cut a healthy rookie draft pick. Unless Beau Sandland has a remarkable preseason (which could happen), it seems inevitable.
This is not necessarily a bad thing for the Carolina Panthers, mind you. Teams that are full of talent are forced to cut late round draft picks every year. Cutting a 6th or 7th rounder was a John Fox tradition back in the day. The fact that the Panthers may be forced to cut a draft pick only tells me Dave Gettleman has fully restocked the Carolina Panthers’ talent shelf.