Projected Lineups: Carolina Panthers
The 2013 NFC South Champion Carolina Panthers are in an interesting position heading into the 2014 season. They enter as the defending division champions, but they’ll know they need to improve as well, as they face tough competition from the New Orleans Saints and an Atlanta Falcons team that will look to rebound after a poor season.
They have their share of impressive players on the roster, but also have some key free agents and holes that need to be addressed if they want to keep themselves in front of their divisional rivals.
– Player markers are colored per class on a six-step ‘Poor’ to ‘High Quality’ scale based on their overall performance and the league’s elite are marked separately in blue.
– Colored outlines suggest a potential change in class.
– Underlined players will be 30+ years old for the 2014 season.
– Red player names suggest injury risks.
– Click on the image to enlarge.
– Some may feel that Cam Newton deserves to be higher, but his struggles as a passer meant that we simply couldn’t justify it. He is very good as a runner however and an improvement throwing the ball would only make him even more dangerous.
– With Brandon LaFell and Ted Ginn free agents, it would be up to the likes of Tavarres King and Marvin McNutt to step up in 2014. Simply put, we haven’t seen enough of either to make a call there, but it’s certainly not a position you want to be in as you try to build on a division title.
– Likewise along the offensive line, where both starting offensive tackles are free agents, that would leave untested Travis Bond and Thomas Austin starting, so you would imagine they’ll be making the position a priority early.
– The same can be said for one defensive end spot, where Greg Hardy may not return, but the rest of the defensive line looks good, with Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short both capable of building on impressive rookie seasons.
– Luke Kuechly may not have been our Defensive Player of the Year, finishing as our eight-highest graded inside linebacker, but he is still a very good player with room to grow. Elsewhere at linebacker no player had a higher grade in coverage than Thomas Davis in 2013. The final linebacker spot is up for grabs, and A.J. Klein looks like the most logical choice to slot in there before anyone else is brought in through free agency or the draft.
2014 Cap Situation
Not quite as tight as the rival Saints, but still not a lot considering the holes they need to fill. Their $8.3 million in cap space is just inside the bottom half of the league but likely won’t be enough to sign their draft picks and address the potential losses of Hardy at defensive end and Jordan Gross at left tackle and, unfortunately, there doesn’t look to be a lot of savings to be made.
They would save $2million by cutting tight end Greg Olsen, but that just doesn’t seem likely, or sensible, given the rest of their receiving corps and Olsen’s level of play. They may feel that they can improve on Charles Godfrey and would save $2.1m by letting him go. What’s frustrating is just how much money they have tied up in the running back position, with neither Jonathan Stewart or DeAngelo Williams are top players, and it would cost far too much in terms of dead money to cut either of them. With that in mind, their best hope for some cap relief may come from Dwan Edwards, who would free up $1.4m.
Opportunities from the Roster
Left guard Amini Silatolu started just three games last year, but did have a very nice performance against the New York Giants in Week 3, where he was perfect in pass protection and put in a good showing as a run blocker. At defensive end, Wes Horton did struggle mightily in the regular season, but had a strong showing in August. Robert Lester didn’t look out of place on the field as an undrafted free agent in 2013, and should get the opportunity for more playing time next season.
Projected lineups by team:
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