Projected Lineups: Carolina Panthers

Gordon McGuinness looks at the defending NFC South champions and their projected roster for the 2014 season with free agency just around the corner.

| 3 years ago
32-lineups-CAR

Projected Lineups: Carolina Panthers


32-lineups-CARThe 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.

Key:
–  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.

Lineup CAR

Roster Notes

–  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.

Potential Casualties

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:

ARZ ATL | BAL | BUF CAR CHI | CIN | CLE | DAL DEN DET
GB | HOU | IND | JAX | KC MIA MIN NE NO NYG NYJ
OAK PHI PIT STL SD | SF | SEA TB TEN WAS

 

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| Analyst, Lead Special Teams Analyst

Gordon has worked at PFF since 2011, and now heads up the company’s special teams analysis processes. His work in-season focuses on college football, while he is also heavily involved in PFF’s NFL draft coverage.

  • Ben

    No blue border for Kuechly?

    • Chiny

      omfg he is not the best MLB in football. He is verry good but its getting to the point where this kid is overrated. Panthers fan here….he constantly over runs the play and gives up yards he doesnt have to in the Run game and he needs to be patient and turn to the ball in PP,,,,,

    • .

      Kuechly is not elite. Very overrated and inconsistent. About 8 non primarily pass rushing LB’s better than him including Willis, Bowman, Lee, D. Johnson, L. David, etc.

    • Ben

      I’m not arguing he’s elite, but that he has that kind of upside (the point of the new borders)

  • Carl Carlton

    Kuechly isn’t an elite player lol calm down Ben its bad enough he stole DPOY from 20 more deserving players.

  • HitmanAce

    Kalil should be Blue. He is already a Top 3 Center
    And if Johnathan Stewart is healthy (Prolly won’t be..) he will start over D-Will

  • zac

    I can’t find these linebacker rankings but id really to know what 7 inside linebackers they think are better than Kuechly. And also what does a center have to do to be considered elite? pretty sure Kalil allowed maybe 1 sack in 2013 while anchoring a top 10 running game on way to his third pro bowl. Why is PFF ranking system so much different than everyone elses? Kalil is a top 3 center in the league, definition of elite.