Early Carolina Panthers moves reveal NFL Draft focus
Carolina Panthers make revealing free agent moves ahead of the NFL Draft.
Free agency is less than a week old but the Carolina Panthers have already made a few key signings. The moves by general manager Marty Hurney reveal a shaping up of the draft board for Carolina and at least the positions they may target when on the clock next month.
Retirement and an aging roster forced the Panthers into some difficult decisions this offseason. Center Ryan Kalil and defensive end Julius Peppers both retired, in addition to Carolina letting wide receiver Devin Funchess, safety Mike Adams, linebacker Thomas Davis, left tackle Matt Kalil and cornerback Captain Munnerlyn leave either via free agency or release.
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The moves left vacancies for essentially six starting positions and Hurney appears to have a plan in place for most of the openings. Re-signing offensive tackle Daryl Williams and receiver Torrey Smith added a solid starting lineman and depth out wide. Carolina also made a surprise signing at center, getting former Denver Broncos lineman Matt Paradis, who should immediately fill the void in front of quarterback Cam Newton.
Extending Eric Reid and Colin Jones locked up one starting safety position while also adding serviceable depth and a strong special teams player. Opposite Reid, expect strong competition from Da’Norris Searcy and Rashaan Gaulden or another late round draft pick.
These moves appear to put a premium on one position in particular for the Panthers in round one – defensive end. An anticipated shift to more 3-4 fronts next year, coupled with the Peppers retirement, leaves openings for edge style players. A true defensive end and linebacker, who can play with his hand on the ground (when needed) are likely early targets.
Once the defensive side of the football is taken care of, Hurney can shift his focus to the offense. Adding another versatile lineman to compete up front should be a focus on day two or three. As the offseason continues, more of the draft board will be revealed but right now the focus seems to be firmly on a pass rusher.
Stay tuned to see how the remainder of free agency shapes up ahead of the NFL Draft, scheduled for April 25-27 in Nashville, Tennessee.