Carolina Panthers to aggressively pursue left tackle

One of the biggest questions the Carolina Panthers offense faces this offseason surrounds the current void at left tackle. It was revealed last week that Michael Oher is still currently on the NFL’s concussion protocol. This brings into serious doubt that his return will ever happen. After all, if you are not recovered from a concussion after 4 months, maybe it is best not to put yourself in a position to inflict another. Who could blame him?

But that still leaves the Carolina Panthers severely lacking in the left tackle department, and they know it. 

Unfortunately for the Panthers, this happens to be one of the weakest drafts for offensive tackles in recent history. There is not a single player, even with the eighth pick overall, that could come in and start at the most demanding position on the offensive line. Don’t expect the answer to come on draft day. It won’t happen. Instead, I suspect the Panthers will focus more on running back.

That leaves the solution for the left tackle dilemma to be solved in free agency. League sources tell me there is as much concern for the left tackle position this year as the great cornerback conundrum of 2016. Remember, a crisis of that magnitude forced Carolina Panthers GM Dave Gettleman out of his comfort zone and draft three cornerbacks.

This week, Gettleman finds himself once again out of his comfort zone. Once again you will see him do something he hates to do. Namely, pay a premium price for a position in desperate need.

One name I am keeping a close eye on is Denver’s Russell Okung. Okung would immediately be a sure fire fix for the offensive tackle position, but at an even heftier price than Matt Kalil. There are injury concerns with Okung, but he did play all 16 games in 2016 which is more that can be said for the Panthers tackles. Going for a player like Okung at a heavy price tag is not typical of Dave Gettleman, but again, this is not a typical offseason. If Gettleman truly wants to show the Panthers are ready to protect Cam Newton and get back to the Superbowl, he will open up the checkbook and prove it.

Should the Panthers decide to again bargain hunt, rumors have been swirling for weeks on the prospect of Matt Kalil joining his brother Ryan on the Panthers offensive line. I can tell you that is a real possibility. The interest is there. However, it is not a certainty as the starting left tackle market is once again very thin this year. Even average to below average starters like Kalil has been statistically may garner big bucks on the market. Normally I would say this is a no-go for Gettleman, but not this year. Left tackle times are tough, and the only answer may be to pay up for a questionable player and pray for a positive result.

Jeremy Igo is owner of Carolina Huddle. Based in Charlotte, he has covered the Carolina Panthers for over a decade.