The whirlwind of free agency moves from last week went a long way to shaping the Carolina Panthers back into a Superbowl contender. However, the job is not complete. There are still a few needs left that need addressed if a Lombardi trophy is destined for Bank of America Stadium.
Young Talent at Defensive End
It seems many Panthers fans believe last week’s acquisition of Julius Peppers settles any questions surrounding the Carolina Panthers pass rush. Well, it doesn’t. The Peppers of today is not the same Peppers in the memories of the Panthers faithful. Julius instead will find himself as a situational pass rusher. What the Panthers desperately need is what Kony Ealy was never able to provide. A young prospect with a high motor that can keep the elder veterans fresh. As of today, the closest thing the Panthers have is 25 year old Ryan Delaire. Unfortunately, Delaire hasn’t been able to string together two solid games in a row over the past two seasons.
I believe the Panthers will address the need for a young talented upstart in the NFL draft, possibly even at pick 8. You can read about that possibility here.
Matt Kalil Insurance
Matt Kalil could very well be a solid left tackle for the Carolina Panthers this season. Unfortunately, it is not a sure thing. The Panthers still need a backup left tackle that could fill in adequately if things go south. Last season the Panthers were forced to start guard Trai Turner at left tackle due to lack of depth. The Panthers never want to be in that position again. You can safely expect the Panthers to stay active in the offensive tackle market throughout free agency and possibly even early in the draft. There are a few prospects in rounds 2-3 that could be on the Panthers radar. More on that later.
Jonathan Stewart is a work horse running back. We all know that. While he remained relatively healthy last season, there is no guarantee he can do the same in 2017. If the Carolina Panthers are to sniff the offseason, they will need a strong and consistent rushing attack that does not rely heavily on Cam Newton. Behind Jonathan Stewart isn’t anyone of note. The Panthers have been trying to find an upgrade for Fozzy Whitaker for a few seasons now and I am not sure Cameron Artis-Payne makes it out of the Rivera dog house long enough to make the team this year.
There are quite a few options available here for the Panthers to shore up the running game. The draft has more running talent this year than any in recent history, and it just so happens that the Panthers have two second round picks. We could see the Panthers a mid tier running back like Samaje Perine out of Oklahoma. At 5’10 and 236 pounds, Samaje could definitely spell Stewart on the more physical runs in the playbook.