1. Josh Norman will receive the franchise tag paying him 14 million. Dave Gettleman won't sign Norman long term, although it could be easily argued Norman has earned it. Instead, he will be franchised for at least one more season. This is not ideal for either party, Norman or the team itself. But, this is sometimes a necessary evil in today's NFL. Yes, Josh Norman gets a nice pay check for a year. The problem for him is he is coming up on 28 years of age and could risk being injured this season. That would mean an unlikely top paying long term contract in 2017. There is a risk here for Norman to lose tens of millions of dollars overall in his career. Keep an eye on this. It is possible Norman could demand a sign and trade to a team that can afford his services long term, like the Oakland Raiders for instance.
2. Shore up the pass rush. Dave Gettleman told us this in so many words at his press conference yesterday. Kony Ealy showed tremendous promise in the Superbowl with a performance on par with the Superbowl MVP Von Miller. Ealy is just now coming into his own, and like Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy, could break out in his third year in the league. Charles Johnson will either be released or will be extended at a very cap friendly deal. Normally I would say Johnson would be released for sure, but his relationship with Panthers owner Jerry Richardson has me second guessing it. There isn't a stronger mutual player/owner respect in the league. Look for the Panthers to make a strong push in free agency for an up and coming player or spend one of their top 2 draft picks on a defensive end. Remember, free agency sets up the draft.
3. Find your future runner. Gettleman told us one of his three pillars of a winning philosophy is running the ball. Jonathan Stewart will likely be retained for one more season, but after that the Panthers currently do not know who their future feature back is. Cameron Artis-Payne saw mixed results during the season, showing an issue holding on to the ball. Brandon Wegher they like, but the fact that he was only active for one game tells me they see him as a long term backup. Does this mean that both have no shot at being a feature back? Of course not, but it does mean that the Panthers will look to minimize the possibility of not having a true feature back in 2017 and even 2016 if Stewart is injured. I can easily see the Panthers signing a quality free agent runner or spending a top 3 pick on a running back.