And which free agent WR should we sign that will make us better? Wes Welker? Spent most of last season out with concussions. Reggie Wayne? Signed with the Patriots. Randy Moss? Last played in 2012 and he's 38 years old. Santana Moss? Steady, but no better than Cotchery and he's older. Santonio Holmes? Missed 24 games over the past three seasons with injuries, and not been the same player since a major foot injury with the Jets. Brandon Lloyd? Can still make plays, but he's known for being a troublemaker in the locker room. Robert Meachem? Outside of New Orleans he's done nothing, but even that is nothing to shout about. So other than Randy Moss, and that's a big stretch because he's not played in three seasons and is 38 years old, I don't see a free agent option worth picking up. We are better going forwards with the core of receivers we have in house, than pursuing a bunch of over the hill veterans with little to nothing to offer.
I put Tolbert in the same bracket as Cotchery. An experienced veteran to keep around a generally young and inexperienced position grouping. At RB, aside from Stewart, the experience ranges from rookie to 2nd and 3rd string RBs with limited experienced. Keeping Tolbert around keeps a proven, experienced head to help the young players develop. Get rid and we'd be taking a risk on whether the young unproven players are ready to command a prominent role on the team. Im not against moving on from either player in order to keep our young talent around. But teams do like experienced heads, and that might keep Tolbert on the roster for another year. Might not. But we'll see when the cuts start.
Hopefully his performance against Miami will earn him some opportunities to play with the firsts. At the end of the day he's shown flashes this pre-season and during his stay in Green Bay that he could develop into a good receiver. He deserves a shot.
This is why I would prefer to see us not go after a regressing veteran like Reggie Wayne or Wes Welker. We shouldn't be looking for another stop gap option, when we have young talent on the roster that could feasibly create a long term role for themselves. I would much rather see this type of depth chart than one featuring another stopgap option that won't necessarily make us any better.
I think the difference with us is that there is a belief and desire to see our young players step up. There are high expectations for Funchess to establish himself as the main receiver this year. Corey and Bersin will want to take this chance to prove themselves as the future at the #3 and #4 positions on the depth chart, instead of stop gap veterans. Likewise, Mike Brown, Jarrett Boykin, and Damiere Byrd will want to prove they have something to offer, and from their work in pre-season, they are worth serious consideration. And that's without considering Cotchery and Ginn still have much to offer this season. That's eight players fighting for a place on the team, and while Reggie Wayne is a future Hall of Fame player, at this stage in his career he may not offer us much more than we already have on our roster. For me, we would be better riding with the young players and the veterans we already have, than signing a one year stop gap option in Reggie Wayne, because at least our young players could breakout and prove they have a long term future on this team, something which Reggie Wayne will never have due to his age. The difference with the Patriots is twofold. First, joining the Patriots lets him chase another ring. And second, outside of Julian Edelman and Brandon LaFell, who else have they got? Danny Amendola and Aaron Dobson are injury prone and inconsistent in the passing game. Brandon Gibson is a steady player, but not much more. And Brian Tyms, Jonathan Krause, Zach D'Orazio, and Josh Boyce have barely played and are low end depth chart players/practice squad players. Joining the Patriots would see Reggie Wayne slot in at #3 on their depth chart, with Amendola, Dobson and Gibson likely rounding off their depth chart. At least in NE he would slot in a mid-depth chart position with less pressure on his shoudlers, and he would also get to play with a future hall of fame quarterback that would make his life easier. Long story short, the Patriots are a perfect fit for a player like him at this stage in his career.
The issue with trading for a wide receiver is who is available that would be worth the price needed to be paid? We are unlikely to find a Brandon Marshall available. Someone who could be a real difference maker. The types of receivers that might be available would be players that may not be any better than what we have on the roster right now. Or we would be taking a risk on a player like a Patterson or Hunter hoping that they finally break out, or someone not living up to their contract like Michael Floyd, but even then it is debatable whether their team would like them go at a price that is not over the top.
This is very sad news. We are going to miss him this year, but hopefully he comes back strong from this. Funchess is going to need to step up and utilise his potential to be a stud wide receiver. Ginn and Cotchery, if they make the roster, should be good reliable targets for Cam. Ginn can stretch the field and Cotchery provides a solid possession receiver. Corey and Bersin will need to step up to provide us with two further options for Cam. This is their chance to make their name as the future #3 and #4 on the depth chart [working on the basis Benji is #1 and Funchess is #2]. And while the injury is sad news, it gives Mike Brown, Boykin and Byrd a chance to fight for a roster spot. I wouldn't be surprised if they looked at one of the big name veteran free agent wide receivers to fill a void (eg Reggie Wayne, Wes Welker etc), or even look to a receiver available via a trade if they aren't convinced we have enough weapons.
I don't see us trading for a wide receiver, especially one that has still not really improved as a wide receiver. He's got that big play ability that could make him special if he breaks out, but I don't see us taking a risk on Patterson because he's still not ready to take on a number #1 or #2 role on a team. Worst case scenario is that we would need Funchess to step up big time in his rookie season and become that big time receiver we drafted him to be. Then we have Cotchery, Ginn, Corey, Bersin, Brown, Boykin, and Byrd as potential contributors in the passing game. And that's without considering our Pro Bowl tight end, Greg Olsen; or the ability that J-Stew has in the passing game. So if Benjamin misses time, I think we have enough on the roster as it stands to compete, especially when you consider that we are arguably a run first team. That said, if I was trading a mid to late round pick for a player with a high ceiling player that might be available for the right price, my target would be Justin Hunter. He's a polished route runner, has good hands, and has big play ability. Best case scenario he develops into a star player. Worst case scenario he develops into a very solid receiver with big play ability [eg Malcom Floyd, Chargers]. The Titans have Kendall Wright as their top option, Hakeem Nicks and Harry Douglas, and second round pick Dorial Green-Beckham. So if I was trading for someone, Hunter would be my choice. But I don't think we will trade for a receiver, and to be honest, I don't think we need to.
At this point in his career he's still a steady receiver and could do a good job for any team looking for a complimentary option, but he's no longer the leading guy on a team. Then again, we wouldn't really need that from him because our receiving options would include: Olsen (TE), Funchess, Ginn, Cotchery, Corey, Bersin, Boykin, and Byrd. Now one might argue that some of those options aren't that appealing, but I would argue that this would be the opportunity for them to step up in a big way and prove their worth to this team. After all, Funchess was drafted to become a big time receiver for this team, and guys like Corey and Bersin will want to establish themselves as solid #3 and #4 options on the depth chart. So adding Reggie Wayne wouldn't be in the hope that he recaptures his glory days, rather we would want him to brings his vast experience, his ability to make important catches, and his winning mentality to this team. Even at this point in his career a healthy Reggie Wayne would be a useful weapon for Cam.
Tolbert did play a dual role with the Chargers when he rushed for over 700 yards and double digit touchdowns. Throughout his career he's been given carries and done a solid job, but at this stage in his career I don't expect to see us change his role markedly. He should still remain the lead FB and get his share of short yardage situations and goal line work, possibly the 2pt conversion attempts as well. So he'll have a prominent role, but I don't see us putting him in as a HB full time unless injuries hit. That said, I do think we'll end up keeping Stewart, CAP, Todman or Fozzy, and then Tolbert and Brockel at FB. I'm not convinced yet that Ward will be on the roster week 1.
At the end of the day our front office made the decision, rightly or wrongly, to show Steve Smith the door last season. If he had never been shown the door, he would still be here and could have played his entire career here and retired a Panther. That didn't happen. poo happens. And Smith was let go and he joined the Ravens. Our team moved on. He moved on. And so should we.... Now don't get me wrong. I'm a big fan of his. He's probably my favorite Panther. And in an ideal world he will comeback and sign a symbolic contract to retire as a Panther. We've seen it happen before with John Kasay and Mushin Muhammad. And this offseason the Jaguars brought back MoJo to retire a Jag despite them showing him the door the year before [something he wasn't very happy about]. Maybe Smitty does the same, then again, should we really blame him if he decides to retire a Raven or retire quietly [or loudly if they win a Super Bowl]? I wouldn't blame him for not coming back and retiring a Panther after being shown the exit as they did. I know this is a business and they have to make tough calls - I don't envy them on that - but the way they handled his release was wrong. And unless both parties can suck it up for the greater good [ie us fans], we may have to accept a scenario where Smitty doesn't retire a Panther. But let's say he doesn't retire a Panther, will that hurt his legacy? No. He's still a great. He's still made a huge contribution to this team on and off the field. And that is what will be celebrated and remembered, not some symbolic contract and press conference where he tears up. What we will remember is those big plays he made for us. The great comeback year. The chip on his shoulder he played with. The great outbursts like his most recent one for us: "ice up, son". And so on... That is what will be remembered. And in time he should be in the ring of honor and have his own statue. But right now we may have to accept that retiring a Panther might not be a guarantee.
l think I'd choose Todman at this stage. He gives us a good special teams player, he's a decent receiving back, and he's a capable back when given carries. I suppose the same can be said about Fozzy to an extent, and it could be a coin flip to pick between them, though I'd lean towards Todman.