So, the Carolina Panthers want to become the Steelers, huh? They want to be a big, nasty, physical team. Easier said than done. But if they truly want to accomplish this, this offseason will be what tells the tale. Will they put their money where their mouth is?
Becoming this latest version of the Steelers will almost certainly have to start up front, in the trenches. There are going to be offensive linemen available in free agency but they may want to look in house before looking elsewhere first. Travelle Wharton and Jordon Gross are both set to become unrestricted free agents. Gross will be the higher priority while Wharton may be allowed to leave. That could leave a hole at the most critical position on the offensive front – left tackle.
Regardless of who stays and who goes, the team may still look to upgrade or simply become bigger and more physical this offseason. This is who they’ll find when shopping for those upgrades in free agency:
G, Ruben Brown, Chicago Bears : Anyone interested in a 36 year old, 13-year veteran? They might be if they’re looking for a guy who could give them a couple of seasons in the interior of their offensive line. Brown may not be the getting a lot of calls during the offseason but could be a decent pickup for somebody provided the pricetag isn’t too high.
G, Alan Faneca, Pittsburgh Steelers : Want to look like the Steelers? Why not take a long hard look at a Steeler? He’s 32 and a veteran of 10 years – stats that may cause teams to think twice but that’s highly unlikely. He’s a five-time Pro Bowl starter and has been named first team All-Pro on five occasions. If Faneca leaves Pittsburgh, he’ll command a large salary and will still be the likely prized free agent at the position.
T, Flozell Adams, Dallas Cowboys : Another 10-year vet, Adams has been a solid left tackle for the ‘Boys for quite some time. His size and experience will attract interest from a number of teams. His salary demands might scare some away, however. But if you want to be big and physical, Adams would be a good place to start.
G, Ryan Lilja, Indianapolis Colts : He’s young (26) and hasn’t absorbed many years of punishment in the NFL (4 years) so he could be a very hot commodity. If the Colts make a considerable offer and keep him, it wouldn’t be a surprise. I can’t imagine Peyton Manning being too excited about losing him.
T, Max Starks, Pittsburgh Steelers : Rebuilding to look like the Steelers, Part Two. Starks is only 26 years old and has played solid in his four seasons in the league. This in one massive dude measuring 6’7″, 337 lbs. He could be a popular guy in March. And if there’s one player on this list the Panthers would covet, this may very well be the guy.
G, Floyd Womack, Seattle Seahawks : There’s a chance that Womack could be relegated to a backup role in the great northwest. If he tests the market he could find several teams interested. He might be the second choice at guard among free agents behind Faneca.
G, Jake Scott, Indianapolis Colts : If the Colts have some money stashed away, they might want to start spending it to protect Manning. There will be demand for Scott who is only 26 and plays the right guard spot well. He’s big (6’5″, 295) but not the most physical player at the position. It’ll be intersting to see what the Horseshoes do with their offensive line.
T, Todd Steussie, St. Louis Rams : Steussie is the senior member of the free agent crop – 37 years old, 14 NFL seasons. A team intersted in signing a guy with plenty of experience might be interested but he might wind up being the target of a team looking for a good backup.
For a complete list of available offensive linemen, be sure to visit our Free Agents Page.
The Panthers want to build a team in the image of the Steelers, right? Here’s the place to start. If they’re serious about it, then there could be bids placed for guys like Faneca, Adams and Starks. Afterall, two of them are Steelers players. But I wouldn’t expect the team to load up too much since their offensive line is already fairly solid and probably only one player away from being a really good group.
Next up…we’ll look at wide receivers tomorrow.