Carolina Panthers free agency moves begin line reconstruction
Early Carolina Panthers moves target both the offensive and defensive fronts.
Entering the offseason, Carolina Panthers general manager Marty Hurney had two major positions to fill due to retiring veterans. Both defensive end Julius Peppers and center Ryan Kalil were captains and each left a strong legacy in Carolina. Excellent both on the field and in the locker room, finding their replacements presented a tall order.
Even without the retirements, Hurney knew the focus this offseason would be up front. The Panthers offensive line was riddled with injuries last season and their defense dropped from No. 3 in sack production, to near last in the league. Both protecting quarterback Cam Newton and generating consistent pressure were the goals.
While targeting a defensive end in the NFL Draft remains a strong possibility, the Panthers made a move to sign a free agent who figures to also be in the mix. A former first-round selection, Bruce Irvin can play from both the defensive end or linebacker positions.
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Coach Rivera has also discussed a possible shift to more 3-4 fronts in 2019, something with which Irvin is familiar. His addition was needed and while no one can replace Peppers, the move is a start to the reconstruction process along both lines.
Opposite, losing the anchor for over a decade on offense also left a gaping hole along a line in need of change. Second-year tackle Taylor Moton stood out for the Panthers on a unit that was under intense scrutiny all season.
Daryl Williams signed a one-year deal favorable to both parties and if he returns to the starting right tackle position, shifting Moton over to replace Matt Kalil is a likely scenario. After missing the entire season, Kalil was released and Hurney may also target a lineman early in the draft.
To replace Kalil, the Panthers turned to Denver, acquiring free agent center Matt Paradis. Returning from a leg injury that caused him to miss the first games of his career, a healthy Paradis presents a solid option to build around moving forward.
Both lines will see more changes before next season but the early moves Carolina is making tends to be checking all of the boxes in order to achieve better pressure and protection.