Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis has been suspended to begin the 2018 season…
The Carolina Panthers offseason continues to accumulate noticeable changes throughout the coaching staff and roster. Almost immediately after the playoff loss at New Orleans, coach Ron Rivera addressed the media stating he anticipated very few changes prior to the next season.
Already in line to acquire new ownership and with a notion Steve Wilks would become a head coach elsewhere, Rivera didn’t anticipate many more changes. Just a few short months later, Rivera is entering his eighth season at the helm with new coordinators in all three phases (offense, defense and special teams) in addition to losing long-time Panthers Jonathan Stewart, Charles Johnson and captain Kurt Coleman.
Another blow arrived this week with the revelation that fellow captain and Panthers veteran Thomas Davis would be suspended for the first four games of 2018 following a failed drug test. Having previously announced his plans for retirement after the season, Davis will miss at least one-fourth of his final year should he follow through with his announced retirement.
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It was expected that linebacker Shaq Thompson would see an expanded role this season but without the services of Davis, general manager Marty Hurney may elect to make a more significant move. Obviously, the Panthers need to plan for life after Davis and drafting a linebacker who can contribute immediately, while learning from Davis, Thompson and Luke Kuechly may be in the best interest of the team.
Carolina has done a nice job of filling in their departures with players who should compete for significant roles. Offensive linemen, wide receivers, defensive tackles and backs have all been added over the recent weeks.
The Panthers are expected to target more help in the defensive backfield, on the offensive or defensive line and potentially at a skill position during the draft. However, knowing Davis will now miss a significant portion of the season opens the door for a linebacker receiving high priority.
Not only would drafting a linebacker early provide the team an immediate option to replace Davis, but it should also benefit the team well into the future.