Remember him? No? Good, because not many people do. Kenny Onatolu was picked up from the Minnesota Vikings in March of last year to provide some depth to the Special Teams unit and the then battered Line Backing unit that was currently Kuechly-less. However, he suffered an elbow injury about five weeks later during an early practice session and was not back on the field until a few weeks after the midpoint of the season. Onatolu recorded three special team tackles in four games during his time with the Panthers.
With the addition of Chase Blackburn from the New York Giants, the Line Backing unit seemed to be set for the near future with eight solid players, more than enough to fill the spots in a Line Backing unit on the depth chart. Though eight players could be considered as too many Line Backers on a depth chart, which is what I assume the Panthers organization was thinking about when they cut Onatolu, which sizes the unit down to seven players. He also is saving the team a lump sum of 775,000 dollars against the salary cap. There could also be interest in the drafting a late round Outside Line Backer, which might be foreshadowed by the releasing of Onatolu.
This seems like a prudent time to assess the Line Backing unit, which is probably the best unit the Panthers have strictly based upon depth. Jon Beason, Thomas Davis, and Luke Kuechly are all franchise players. Maybe not Davis, though he does provide great depth to the unit as well as fantastic leadership to a very young team, something all teams desperately want and need to succeed. Jordan Senn and Chase Blackburn add great depth to the unit while Doug Hogue and Jason Williams should provide backup to the backups. So all in all the Panthers have a pretty solid group on Line Backers with considerable value on the current roster. In the meantime, here is a nice video taken during the Panthers voluntary workouts this week, enjoy!