Join me after the break as I grade a few of the moves the Panthers have made this year. Also, I’ll apologize in advance if I anger anyone with what I say.
First off, I want to say that the Panthers had an amazing off-season. They made some moves and pulled some things off, that ultimately made them a contender in the NFC. They resigned and extended numerous play-makers, and they drafted a franchise Quarterback. The only problem I have: the manner in which they signed some of those players.
Charles Johnson: C-
Johnson was signed to a Monster $72 million deal, with $32 million guaranteed and a $30 million signing bonus included. To be honest I think Johnson is completely over paid. Yes Johnson had an oustanding year last year with 11.5 sacks, 61 tackles and 1 forced fumble. In 2009, Johnson recorded 4 sacks, 25 tackles and 2 forced fumbles. In 2008, he had 6 sacks, 25 tackles and 2 forced fumbles. Yes, he has done well for a four year veteran, but nothing to me denotes anything worthy of $72 million. I’ll admit that Johnson will be a great DE throughout his career, but in the past numerous DE’s have failed to repeat double digit sack years. I hope I am proven wrong, but as of now I think he is overpaid.
Jon Beason: C+
Beason was signed to record breaking LB extension worth $50 million with $25 million guaranteed. I like the move the Panthers made here. Since Dan Morgan left the team, Beason has stood out as the premiere LB on the Panthers defense. His stats of 2010 were hurt when he was shifted to the OLB position until Dan Connor was injured, but he still recorded a sack, an interception and 121 tackles. In previous years, Beason had led the Panthers in tackles and had 2 consecutive 3 interception seasons. Beason is the cornerstone of our defense and his extension solidifies his future with the organization. He will continue to dominate and I can see him being elected to Pro Bowls as a starter and not an alternate.
James Anderson: B
James Anderson was signed to a 5 year contract worth $25 million with $8.5 million guaranteed. I see this as one of the best moves the Panthers made in the week long Free Agency. Anderson solidified himself as a dominate LB last year with 130 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 1 interception and 3 fumble recoveries. Anderson presents the Panthers an opportunity to create a LB squad like that of the Baltimore Ravens. Anderson is a great complement to Jon Beason and the two work well together. Throw in a healthy Dan Connor and you have a defense to reckon with. Anderson’s signing makes sense as the Panthers are looking towards the future and Anderson will only grow from here.
DeAngelo Williams: A+
In my opinion the Panthers resigning DWill to a contract worth $42 million with $21 million guaranteed over 5 years is the best move overall. Last year the Panthers’ running game was hurt by the lack of a solid Quarterback and the injuries to DWill and J-Stew. Yes, Mike Goodson shone through as a future star in the Panthers’ backfield, but he is not ready to assume a full-time starting position. DeAngelo has had amazing years with the Panthers, even when he was forced to split carries with Jonathan Stewart. Double Trouble has been a force to reckon with, and adding Goodson can only help the cause. Overall, DeAngelo is an amazing player, and will continue to be as he wants to retire a Panther.
Cam Newton: C-
Cam Newton is entering the league after one solid season as a D-1 college QB. He rose through the ranks and won the Heisman amid controversy and doubt. The Panthers decided to draft Newton #1 overall and risk making him our franchise QB. What strikes me as fascinating is the fact that Cam only had one season on the major college level. He proved he could run the ball, and that he has an arm to be a great passer, but he has no experience. Maybe the competition with Jimmy Clausen will speed up the development of Newton, as the kid needs to be developed if he wants to make an immediate impact. Hopefully Newton proves to be the franchise QB we need, as we drafted him one year after drafting Clausen.
John Kasay: F
Releasing John Kasay and signing a kicker on 3 years younger baffles me. Kasay was still a solid kicker and has one of the high career FG percentages out there. I honestly thought Kasay would decide when his tenure in Carolina would be over, but I was wrong. The Panthers decision to release Kasay shows they are loyal to no one. I hope they sign Kasay to a one day deal in order for him to retire a Panther.
Greg Olsen: A+
Trading for Olsen might be the best move the Panthers made outside the organization. Chudzinski stated that he wanted more input from the TE’s in the passing game, and by getting Olsen he proved he was serious. Olsen’s stats were hurt last year in Chicago when the Bears brought in OC Mike Martz. Martz tends to stay away from a TE passing game, and Olsen is an outsanding receiver. The addition of Olsen adds depth to the receiving core in Carolina while we were looking for players to complement Steve Smith. Olsen will possible have a dual role in check down passes and deep throws. I remember reading that Olsen has yet to drop a pass this off-season, and that is the type of player we need. Olsen represents a commitment to a new type of offense and fills the void left by Wesley Walls so many years ago.
Overall, the Carolina Panthers had an outstanding off-season, both in Carolina and by acquisitions. Look for the Panthers to employ a new type of offense and defense that Coach Ron Rivera brings with him. We will see an improved passing offense, as well as defense that uses exotic blitzes. It will be a new dawn in Carolina, as the team looks to embody the “worst to first” tradition in the NFC South.