Oct 20, 2013; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers free safety Mike Mitchell (21) reacts with wide receiver Ted Ginn (19) towards the end of the game. The Carolina Panthers defeated the St. Louis Rams 30-15 at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The Five Panther’s Free Agents Guaranteed to Return

Going into the current offseason, the Carolina Panthers have 21 free agents entering the market when the the 2014 NFL year starts. There are those high profile Panthers entering free agency, like Greg Hardy and Captain Munnerlyn, but there are a few players who I think will be locks for re-signing with the organization, actually five locks, and they go as followed.

Graham Gano – This is the biggest no-brainer for Gettleman. Graham Gano is the best placekicker to come to the Panthers since John Kasay, and I honestly think Gano is better player than Kasay. Gano is consistent and works well under pressure. Some of his field goals have already won the team a game, more specifically, the regular season game against the San Francisco 49ers. Not only that, but Gano has recorded the highest touchback percentage in the entire league since 1994 according to STATS LLC, a percentage of 79.7%.

Graham Gano is the safest bet when it comes to being re-signed, and the Panthers organization would be completely nuts to let him go. And not just Gano, but the organization would be completely out of their minds to let any of the specialists go. Brad Nortman, J.J. Jansen, and Graham Gano make one of the best specialist units in the entire NFL, and in my opinion, the best specialist unit the Panthers have ever had. But I think Gettleman knows Gano’s importance to the team so look for him to sign a nice 4-6 year contract over the offseason.

Mike Mitchell – Maybe the most exciting Panther in the secondary since Mike Minter, Mike Mitchell absolutely has to be locked up this year. The rock of the secondary unit, Mike Mitchell talks hard and hits even harder. He’s tied with Luke Kuechly for the most interceptions on the season with four, and all around had his best season of his career with the Carolina Panthers, after being drafted and playing for the Oakland Raiders for his first four years in the league. (And an Ohio University alum! Go Bobcats!)

Jan 12, 2014; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers free safety Mike Mitchell (21) on the field prior to the 2013 NFC divisional playoff football game at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 12, 2014; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers free safety Mike Mitchell (21) on the field prior to the 2013 NFC divisional playoff football game at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The best player in the secondary unit, Mitchell lead the group to become the 6th ranked pass defense in the league. Not bad for a group of guys who earned the moniker, “The Legion of Whom.” Along with Gano, Mitchell is a must re-sign. With the return of Charles Godfrey, (hopefully!) Mitchell’s unit would be a force to be reckoned with in the backfield and Mitchell and Godfrey alone could be more than enough to make up for the weak Cornerback group. Mitchell turned a battered unit, struggling to find talent and consistency, into a very respectable NFL secondary with no premier CB’s or safeties. I’m sure Gettleman will sign Mitchell to a nice long contract as well and I really do think that Mitchell and Gano both will take substantial mark downs in their coming contracts.

Quintin Mikell – Another Safety, Quintin Mikell is a player who I think is a guarantee to wrapped up by the Panthers over the offseason. Like this year, I expect the Panthers will keep four safeties on the roster; Mikell, Mitchell, Godfrey, and Lester. (And Colin Jones as well, but he’s strictly been a Special Teams player for the past two years.)

I think, and I’m sure everyone would agree with me, that Mikell is out of his prime. His heyday is done and I see him here only for depth. However, Mikell supplies a ton of depth. Even out of his prime Mikell is still a starter on most teams and his lack of numbers this year is surprising to me, personally I thought Mikell had a great season. He put up three sacks, a career high, and helped solidify the 6th ranked pass defense in the league. Mikell definitely needs to scooped up again, though his contract shouldn’t be anywhere close to Mitchell’s, maybe a 2 or 3 year, 3 million dollar contract. His depth is needed and will be greatly appreciated.

Colin Cole – A little off base, but I think Colin Cole will be signed again in the offseason. Dave Gettleman loves his Hop Mollies and Colin Cole is the Websters definition of a Hog Mollie. The Panthers already have “Big” Dwan Edwards wrapped up till next year, so last year’s worry over him shouldn’t be a problem this year. (If it came down to either Dwan or Colin I’d take Dwan nine times out of ten.) Since Dwan is already here, I expect the Panthers to keep the same four Defensive Tackles on the roster again; Star, Kawann, Dwan, and Colin Cole.

Colin Cole isn’t exactly a sack monster, but he did give the D-Line an extra push. While Star takes up the most space on the Line, Cole definitely keeps people busy while the Kraken and Johnson do their work. Cole is a space eater, and Gettleman loves a good space eater. I think Cole will sign a small contract similar to Mikell’s, but for a smaller amount of money. Not many people will be after Cole come March and I think he knows this. I expect Cole to take a pretty big discount in his contract this offseason.

Ted Ginn – One of the three Wide Receivers entering free agency, I think Ted Ginn has the better chance of returning to Charlotte. He definitely was the most surprising part of the Panthers offense, though he has some work to do. Similar to LaFell, Ginn’s problems with dropping catches have been well documented, though his speed and unpredictability are more impressive than LaFell’s, who is his biggest competition.

Nov 18, 2013; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers wide receiver Ted Ginn (19) scores the winning touchdown as New England Patriots strong safety Logan Ryan (26) defends in the fourth quarter. The Panthers defeated the Patriots 24-20 at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

He had the best season of his career with the Panthers and basically started a revival for his tenure in the NFL, after being labeled a flub coming out of the 2007 Draft. He offers a great advantage in the kick/punt return game, and gives the receiving unit an X-factor. Ted Ginn may not be signed, but I think the cards are definitely in his favor. I expect the organization to bring him back next year for another small deal in comparison to Cole’s and Mikell’s.

So those are my thoughts on the players who will be brought back into the organization, but who do you think will a be guaranteed re-signee in the offseason? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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Tags: Carolina Panthers Colin Cole Graham Gano Mike Mitchell Quintin Mikell Ted Ginn Jr

  • Cam.45 (Smith&Olsen)

    No Guarantee with this rookie that never played but I hope Linden Gaydosh cracks the roster next year. I watched him play for Calgary. He’s a BIG BOY and would definitely help our DL.

    I actually see no real reason why we cant resign anyone we want to resign. Both Stewart and Williams “should” re-structure their contracts. I dont see how we can invest that much money in the backfield… Especially with Tolbert and Barner. They come down to a want, not a need.

    Reguardless, the whole NFL now has to take a look at us as contenders. We turned some heads, including my own, in all honesty. That being said… It was a pleasant surprise and am all ready looking forward to the 2014 season.

    Panther Pride
    Ottawa, Ontario. CANADA

    • Tony Cardwell

      Took a look at Gaydosh’s wikipedia page and the first pick in the Canadian Draft sounds pretty good to me! I’ll be rooting for him, hope he has a good camp! Look into Wes Horton too. The guy had a good preseason and had two really good games when he got more than five plays in.

      I agree with the RB situation, but I see no way the organization lets any of them go for the foreseeable future. Williams will definitely restructure and hopefully Stew will too, but only time will tell. Hurney definitely put us into a hole with the Tolbert/Williams deals.

      The league definitely needs to look at us as contenders. We definitely aren’t Super Bowl contenders yet, but we are damn close. Just need to get Cam a good receiver to compliment Smith and grab a stronger hold on Olsen, along with a few other things.

      Also happy to hear the Panthers got some fans all the way in Canada!


    • ahrcshaw

      You make a good point, I happened to be able to watch this young man here in NC and he has great potential, I hope he gets the opportunity to stay in this climate as it takes a year or so to kind and I mean kind of get use to it. I am a transported Mich yankee who came down here years ago and I still have trouble with the Humidity. Unfortunately that will be a major problem for him to overcome as well as the spead of the NFL. Go Panthers.

  • Mike

    Melvin White needs to be re-signed. He was actually better in coverage than Munnerlyn. Cap will be expendable this offseason. But I totally agree with Mitchell. Mikell will be expendable as well. With Godfrey coming back to play the Free, Mitchell at Strong, and the emergence of Robert Lester, who was third on the team in INTs, Mikell may be looking for another place to play

    • Tony Cardwell

      I’m pretty sure White’s been signed till 2016, but you’re right that he’s better than Munnerlyn. Munnerlyn is a career nickel, I know it’s been said before but it’s so true. Keeping him as a third would be smart if the team decides to draft a CB in one of the first three rounds. I like Mikell though, and I’d like for him to stay. He’d be a strong backup to either Mitchell or Godfrey. He’d probably take a hit in his salary too. This late in his career, he probably wants to play for a winner and the Panthers proved this season they can be winners.

      With that being said, you are right that he is expendable. I put him in more for myself. I like Mikell a lot and I will advocate for his stay in Carolina till he’s not here any longer. In my mind he’s a guarantee.

  • Catman

    Munnerlyn is better than people think. Sure, he isn’t the best cover man in the NFL @ 5’8″ but is a very physical CB nonetheless at a VERY solid 195 lbs. He has the quickness to defend the slot and the strength to play press coverage against taller WRs, if he can do it consistently. He WANTS to be a Panther and “played the salary cap game” last season, opting to stay for the season on a 1-yr, $1 million contract just so he could stay put. If he can get a 3 or 4-year deal he’d be a great CB3/nickel corner/top backup off the bench. He’s only 25 yrs old but has 5 NFL seasons under his belt. If you look at his stats, his tackles have risen each year.He has only missed 3 games in 5 seasons, so he’s durable. He has 5 career TDs on 7 career INTs – pretty great ratio! Finally, he’s a great guy and a very good influence in the locker room. If he’s not with the Panthers in 2014, it’ll be because of the salary cap and the salary cap ONLY. Otherwise I think he’s wanted back by the coaches, teammates, and the organization as a whole. I’m just cursing Charles Godfrey’s contract with so much “dead money” there. I’d rather lose Godfrey and keep Munnerlyn with Mike Mitchell’s emergence as the “enforcer” of the secondary. Munnerlyn showed us this season he can do a lot of things – rush the passer when asked to, and two pick-sixes on the season is always nice and he’s shown a knack for doing it.

    • ahrcshaw

      No question in what you say, including putting a lot (and I mean a lot) of pressure on the current players who have outlandish contracts. With the exception of Hardy, I really think most of the players will work with Mr G to fix the problem so they can move forward. I hope and think Mr G and Rivera will do this gambling on others stepping up. The attitude and the mood of the team is at its peak and now is the time to solidify a more controllable roster. Go Panthers.

  • ahrcshaw

    I think the last time I comment on one of your articles I think I blasted you for what you said, but in this article you said it almost right. Ginn will be back, and the others you mentioned as well good job. By the way it would be nice to see another list that listed the 21 free agents again. Go Panthers.