I’m going to start a series here on Cat Crave on possible free agent acquisitions for the Panthers. After coming off of a 6-10 season, and having the lead in 14 of their 16 games, people in the organization are very optimistic about the future and believe that this team is a couple guys away from being something special. That is why free agency is so important for Carolina this year. They’ll be looking to add some defensive talent to the roster as they try to piece together a playoff caliber team for 2012.
One position that Carolina needs an upgrade at is defensive tackle. They were constantly being gashed by opposing running backs and were simply just being over powered by opposing offensive linemen. As of right now the Panthers are leaning on Terrel McClain and Sione Fua to be starting defensive lineman, both of whom just came off rookie years that were full of ups and downs. If Ron Edwards can come into camp this year healthy, then he’ll definitely be given a large roll, but at 33 years of age, Edwards is approaching the end of his career. The Panthers could use another guy to provide some production, as well as be a mentor to Fua and McClain.
One guy that the Panthers should be showing a lot of interest in to fill this void is Paul Soliai. He’s a defensive tackle, who has spent the first five years of his career with the Dolphins and is an absolute tank. At 6-4, 355 lbs, Soliai could provide the run-stuffing ability that Carolina lacked in its interior lineman this past season. Soliai would draw a lot of attention from opposing lineman and would free up our linebackers to make tackles. I’m sure the Dolphins will be doing everything they can to keep him, but after an ugly contract situation last year where Miami slapped the franchise tag on Soliai, he might be wanting to test the free agent waters.
Another guy that the Panthers should have an eye on is Amobi Okoye. He spent the first four years with the Texans, and his last as a member of the Bears. The Bears have been pleased with Okoye’s production and have said they plan to try to sign Okoye to a multi-year contract, but I’m sure Okoye and his agent will be listening to other offers around the league as well. Okoye is not has big as Soliai, weighing in at 6-2, 292 lbs, but he is a lot quicker and can get into the backfield and disrupt the play. He also has the ability to provide an interior pass rush and that could be especially useful in critical passing situations. Okoye should be a lot less expensive than Soliai as well and that should only add to his value. And with the way the Panthers defensive line performed this past season, they could use all the help they could get at that position.