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TheSpecialJuan

Bill Barnwell's 5 offseason moves for the Carolina Panthers

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Projected 2020 cap space: $32.2 million

1. Figure out whether to keep Cam Newton. This is the obvious one, but everything depends on what the Panthers see from Newton when they work him out in March. If Newton doesn't look like he's healing, Carolina could cut him and pair one of the veteran quarterbacks available in free agency with second-year passer Will Grier. Cutting Newton would free up $19.1 million in cap room.

If Newton looks healthy, the Panthers could keep him and let him play out the final year of his deal. There's a case for extending him with a structure that would allow the Panthers to get out of the deal with a small payment after the 2020 season, similar to the extensions signed by guys like Ryan Fitzpatrick and Tyrod Taylor in recent seasons, but I imagine Newton would prefer to play out the season and try to negotiate off a productive campaign this time next year.

While the Panthers have mooted a possible Newton trade, I don't see the middle ground where that happens. Whichever team trades for Newton is going to put him through a significant physical, and he would only pass if he were healthy. If he's healthy, the Panthers are probably going to want to keep him around unless somebody blows Carolina away with an offer, which isn't likely given that we haven't seen an effective Newton since the first half of 2018. Then again, I didn't think Odell Beckham Jr. or Antonio Brown were getting traded last year, either.

2. Rebuild the defensive line. I liked what general manager Marty Hurney did last offseason to add to a deep, talented defensive line, but the Panthers will need to go back to the well this offseason. Carolina will return Brian Burns, Kawann Short and reserve end Efe Obada, but everyone else is up in the air. Wes Horton retired. Dontari Poe has a team option that might not be picked up after he tore a quad. Veterans Mario Addison, Gerald McCoy, Bruce Irvin, Kyle Love, Vernon Butler and Stacy McGee are all free agents. If Poe departs, the Panthers would need to replace nearly 3,500 defensive line snaps.

Burns and Short will play more snaps if they're healthier in 2020. There's obviously not one player the Panthers can target to solve their issues here. I'm a bit surprised they haven't yet re-signed Addison, who seemed to be on pace to become a lifelong Panthers player. They need to sign at least one veteran starter, and even that number assumes they flood the back half of their draft with defensive linemen.

3. Get a linebacker and a leader to replace Luke Kuechly. Having to rebuild most of a defensive line during an offseason is tough enough. Replacing a franchise icon and future Hall of Famer makes things even more difficult. The Panthers did re-sign Shaq Thompson, who will help shoulder some of the load as they move on from Kuechly, but they still need to add a starter to replace the seven-time Pro Bowler.

The good news for the Panthers is that there's a deep class of options available in free agency. Carolina could look toward Kyle Van Noy, Cory Littleton, Joe Schobert, Blake Martinez and Patrick Onwuasor to replace Kuechly. Veterans like Alec Ogletree, Denzel Perryman, Avery Williamson and Todd Davis are all also possible cap casualties in the weeks to come.

4. Add a tight end to replace Greg Olsen. If losing one franchise icon wasn't enough, the Panthers also decided to move on from Olsen, who has the third-most receiving yards in franchise history. You can certainly understand where the team was coming from, as Olsen had missed 18 games over the past three seasons while averaging just 36 receiving yards per contest and had an $11.6 million cap hit coming in 2020. He deserves a chance to play a more defined role on a team closer to a possible championship.

I'd like to see the Panthers give Ian Thomas meaningful snaps -- the Indiana product has played well when given the opportunity. Thomas has taken 70% or more of the snaps in a game nine times over the past two seasons, and he has caught 37 passes for 356 yards and three scores in those games. Those numbers aren't far off from what Olsen was posting, but just two of those starts came with a healthy Newton, and Thomas' $660,000 base salary for 2020 is a fraction of what Olsen was going to take home.

New coach Matt Rhule didn't use a significant percentage of two-tight end sets over the past couple of years -- Baylor used two or more tight ends 10.6% of the time, which was below the FBS average -- but I suspect that he'll want to bring in somebody to challenge and/or supplement Thomas, especially as a blocker. The veteran pool at tight end is already getting thin with Olsen not returning and Vernon Davis, Garrett Celek and Ben Watson all retiring, so this might be a position the Panthers look to address in the draft.

5. Replace James Bradberry. It doesn't seem like the Panthers intend on re-signing Bradberry, who had his best season in 2019 and looks to be an ascending top-15 cornerback. He saw plenty of No. 1 receivers last season; on plays in which Bradberry was the nearest defender in coverage, 61% of targets against him came against No. 1 wideouts, per NFL Next Gen Stats.

Donte Jackson, a second-round pick in 2018, has struggled since a hot start to his career, making the question of what to do without Bradberry even more pressing. Perhaps they hope improved defensive line play would render their cornerback play less important. Carolina could presumably use the No. 7 overall pick on a corner like Jeff Okudah if he fell that far, but I get the sense that the Panthers are more likely to use that selection on a defensive lineman.

Finding a Week 1 starter across from Jackson is one of the many things the Panthers need to do this offseason. There's so much to do, in fact, that I couldn't even fit signing Christian McCaffrey to a contract extension into their five steps.

https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/28648779/five-2020-offseason-moves-nfc-teams-bill-barnwell-predicts-trades-free-agency-cuts#nfcsouth

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I have no idea how you list a Panthers top 5 offseason moves and don't mention the OL not once.

Here's my top 5:

1. Figure out the QB situation.

2. OL and DL

3. OL and DL

4. OL and DL

5. Did I mention OL and DL?

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Lol no mention of OL improvement while allowing 58 sacks. Replacing big name loses without actually looking at our roster's other issues or who we have that may be used instead of drafting a replacement. Fug I am tired of the media and the crap job they do. 

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12 minutes ago, Waldo said:

Lol no mention of OL improvement while allowing 58 sacks. Replacing big name loses without actually looking at our roster's other issues or who we have that may be used instead of drafting a replacement. Fug I am tired of the media and the crap job they do. 

This. Honestly, in hindsight, I don't think Luke's retirement caught the Panthers by surprise at all and Shaq's late season contract extension probably had a lot to do with that pending announcement. We may not have known for sure that Luke was retiring at that point and he may not have either, but I think both parties knew that it was certainly a possibility. Shaq IS Luke's replacement.

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3 minutes ago, LinvilleGorge said:

This. Honestly, in hindsight, I don't think Luke's retirement caught the Panthers by surprise at all and Shaq's late season contract extension probably had a lot to do with that pending announcement. We may not have known for sure that Luke was retiring at that point and he may not have either, but I think both parties knew that it was certainly a possibility. Shaq IS Luke's replacement.

I have to keep reminding myself, it's not if I like it but if the organization is doing it. I think there is a real possibility that Shaq and Ian are the replacements...Now for fun and to watch heads explode, how does this line of thinking apply to QB...

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"but I get the sense that the Panthers are more likely to use that selection on a defensive lineman."

Welcome to the Huddle. D-linemen are loved here above all else.

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58 minutes ago, TheSpecialJuan said:

 

5. Replace James Bradberry. It doesn't seem like the Panthers intend on re-signing Bradberry, who had his best season in 2019 and looks to be an ascending top-15 cornerback. He saw plenty of No. 1 receivers last season; on plays in which Bradberry was the nearest defender in coverage, 61% of targets against him came against No. 1 wideouts, per NFL Next Gen Stats.

Donte Jackson, a second-round pick in 2018, has struggled since a hot start to his career, making the question of what to do without Bradberry even more pressing. Perhaps they hope improved defensive line play would render their cornerback play less important. Carolina could presumably use the No. 7 overall pick on a corner like Jeff Okudah if he fell that far, but I get the sense that the Panthers are more likely to use that selection on a defensive lineman.

Finding a Week 1 starter across from Jackson is one of the many things the Panthers need to do this offseason. There's so much to do, in fact, that I couldn't even fit signing Christian McCaffrey to a contract extension into their five steps.

https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/28648779/five-2020-offseason-moves-nfc-teams-bill-barnwell-predicts-trades-free-agency-cuts#nfcsouth

What metric is he using to decide Bradberry was a top 15 CB last year?

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22 minutes ago, Waldo said:

I have to keep reminding myself, it's not if I like it but if the organization is doing it. I think there is a real possibility that Shaq and Ian are the replacements...Now for fun and to watch heads explode, how does this line of thinking apply to QB...

I think both Shaq and Ian are almost certainly better than anyone we could A) draft outside of #7 overall and I don't want a LB at #7 and there's no TE even in that conversation this year and B) reasonably afford to sign on the FA market given our massive needs in the trenches. Our LBs didn't matter this year because our DL was getting blown up and it'll be the same story next year if we don't fix that DL.

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5 minutes ago, LinvilleGorge said:

I think both Shaq and Ian are almost certainly better than anyone we could A) draft outside of #7 overall and I don't want a LB at #7 and there's no TE even in that conversation this year and B) reasonably afford to sign on the FA market given our massive needs in the trenches. Our LBs didn't matter this year because our DL was getting blown up and it'll be the same story next year if we don't fix that DL.

I completely agree.

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I like this Cam discussion much better.  It actually has context and the health rationale. 

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If it were me I would sign Joe Schobert, Joe Thuney and Dj Reader.Resign Mcaffery. Then I would cut Poe (pay Reader that money) and let everyone that is a free agent walk and play all our draft picks and young guys. After this we would have a ton of money the next year to spend and all young players. Finally, I would trade Cam for hopefully a first rounder. Frees up another 20 mill

Edited by Jared Patterson

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19 hours ago, LinvilleGorge said:

I have no idea how you list a Panthers top 5 offseason moves and don't mention the OL not once.

Here's my top 5:

1. Figure out the QB situation.

2. OL and DL

3. OL and DL

4. OL and DL

5. Did I mention OL and DL?

Yeah...I don’t see most of these getting done and in fact I think it’s foolish to use cap to try and do it all this year. 
 

1. The rebuild starts with trading Cam and figuring out what’s next at QB. You could go two ways: Either make the move necessary to get Tua or Burrow and sign a veteran (Mariotta, Keenum..maybe even Alex Smith). Or get comfortable with Grier and plan on being terrible enough to take Lawrence or Fields. 
 

2. If it’s not Tua or Burrow - draft the best OT. Build an actual elite OL for CMC and whoever your QB of the future will be. Wilson came into the league with a beast OL. Dak has had success (with limitations) bc he has had an incredible line. The KC line was insane. The Eagles OL is the best in the league. Keep your Qb upright and invest significant draft capital in that unit. Start with Willis or Wirfs. Maybe sign a guy like Osemele. 
 

3. Build the DL. KK will be back from injury. Burns has potential. Look at guys like Beasley, Dupree and try to find a NT in the draft. 
 

4. The opposite corner spot is overrated. Good coaches can coach up a secondary. Drafting Okudah would be a mistake with as many needs as we have. Edit: If you’re gonna go BPA and you’re convinced it’s Okudah then I guess follow the process. It’s just probably the least important position of need for us imo. 
 

That’s where I start. I have no desire to spend significant capita trying to replace Luke. We just signed Shaq to a big deal. He’s the leader now. Get some solid athletes and a penetrating line in front of them and it’ll be more than enough. Luke is gone. You’re not replacing him. 

Edited by unicar15
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