Carolina Panthers Needs Entering 2012 Offseason

Defense wins games, but the NFL is geared more toward allowing an offense to score, ergo offense wins games. It’s a confusing model at times, given the changes the NFL has undergone in recent years under Commissioner Roger Goodell’s

Justin Blackmon, 2010 Carollton PD Mugshot

watch. I can’t say I’m a big fan of most of the changes, but it has made for some exciting games at times. Comparatively speaking, the amount of boring, one-sided games hasn’t changed much as a result of the offensive favoritism. So how does this affect the Panthers? What does all this mean for us fans and what we might expect going into the offseason?

Not much, or a whole lot.

We all have our ideas of what the “needs” of this team are. Some say it’s a receiver to complement Steve Smith and become his eventual successor. Others say it’s not receiver, but if Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon falls to Carolina, they should draft him based on BPA (Best Player Available). The other school of thought — conventional wisdom some, myself included, might say is draft for the offensive line or defensive line or linebacker.

I agree with myself on that last part. So let’s consider the pieces Carolina has in place on its roster. I’m not much of a wiz on predicting the team’s salary cap, but I am aware that the team is either awfully close to exceeding it, or it has been exceeded — it’s difficult to get a straight story.

I could say that according to Panthers head coach Ron Rivera, the team’s need is on the offensive line. There are some able-bodied guys there, but solidifying the line would be ideal. And maybe that will happen given Jeff Otah returns and remains healthy, but what if he doesn’t? So the protection of the team’s largest investment — quarterback Cam Newton, seems to me not only logical, but imperative.

Rivera also stated that solidifying the defensive line is an area of importance. Which I agree with, given that Carolina’s defense was among the worst in yards allowed.

Then we could also look at linebackers and say what needs to be addressed here? Well maybe a lot, perhaps not much, or we are okay there — all three, really. Combining two responses, “perhaps not much and we are okay there,” it may be that the team doesn’t have to do much at linebacker if Thomas Davis can, by some miracle, stay healthy. And I say Thomas Davis will be back, because team owner Jerry Richardson and General Manager Marty Hurney have publicly expressed interest in seeing if Davis can resurrect his production by staying healthy. In addition, Davis has been adamant about restructuring his contract so he can remain a Panther. *Cha-ching*, winner.

Adding onto that, the position is fairly deep, and I would say that the cast the Panthers have at linebacker is solid at worst. If Davis can come back and remain healthy, there is a super star on the roster, and an elite MLB in Jon Beason. However, “if” is the operative word between dominance and bland.

Defensive tackle is not a deep position in this draft, so let’s assume there are perhaps five worth looking at as an early pick. Given that Carolina isn’t picking in the top-five of the first round, a lot of these needs can be addressed in free agency.

For the time being, Carolina should and will likely select BPA with their first pick. Which is sensible — even though I’m not a fan of it, I understand and agree that sometimes there is no other choice than that.

Given that the League is becoming more pass-happy, with the emphasis and rage on tight ends, Carolina really needs to look at solidifying its defensive line, to enable rushing the passer with greater ease. It struggled there this past season, and that to me, seems to be the biggest area of need. Defensive secondary can be addressed in later rounds of the draft, or via free agency.

Who might fill those needs? Offer your reactions in the comment section below! Please keep it relevant and clean.

Follow Eric on Twitter @PSU_EQ.

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