This morning on NFL Network, Carolina Panthers Head Coach Ron Rivera sat down for a quick interview at the NFL Combine. As the defensive backs wind the combine down today, Rivera was asked about Cam Newton, his development, and what he thought about some of the free agents available this year.
The link for the video of the interview and story can be found here on NFL.com.
I saw it earlier this morning, live. Most Panthers fans know the offense has a good but aging #1 wide receiver, 33 year old Steve Smith, and a bushel-basket full of #3 types. Steve Wyche of NFL.com knows this too, and asked him about the fastest receiver in the NFL, the Steelers’ Mike Wallace.
“You’re warm,” Rivera replied, “but you know, what’s going to be interesting is how things unfold once we get to March 12.” He was referencing the official start to the free agent season.
Rivera probably also knows the Miami Dolphins are showing great interest in the young man, and that they have a lot more salary cap room to get him, but didn’t express it. The NFL rumor mill says the Dolphins may already either have a deal or are close to one with the speedster, but the same question could have been posed about Green Bay’s UFA WR, Greg Jennings, and would probably have elicited a similar response.
Dwayne Bowe is another, but I think the Kansas City Chiefs may slap the “franchise” tag on him to help their offense-in-flux be stable. The more I think about it, the less I see KC taking West Virginia QB Geno Smith. I think they’ll re-sign LT Brandon Albert and go after a steady QB…Alex Smith in particular. With Albert protecting his blind side and Bowe a dynamic weapon along with some of the other young skill position players they have (like Dexter McCluster and TE Tony Moeaki), it would open up their #1 pick overall for whomever they have rated the highest on their board, other than interior offensive linemen.
The Panthers’ salary cap woes are well-known as are their offensive line woes and lack of explosive talent at the WR position.
Because of their cap situation along with DeAngelo Williams’ trade value being rather low due to injuries early in the 2012 season, the Panthers may be shackled with 3 expensive running backs in the 2013 season after signing massive FB Mike Tolbert last offseason.
There are also a lot of players in this year’s draft crop that are so close in talent level in some areas, the Panthers could get just about the same level of help drafting 14th or 32nd in the first round….so long as they’re hunting for someone to help their front-seven in general and a defensive tackle specifically.
It also means the Panthers are unlikely to find a suitor to trade down unless there’s a guy like safety Kenny Vaccaro around and another team wants to trade up and get him. Therefore, the Panthers may well be looking to draft a WR at 14 overall if either Cordarrelle Patterson or Keenan Allen is available, then wait for the second round to get a defensive tackle to help fill that problem area in a draft replete with good talent on the defensive line.