Carolina Panthers: Building a young foundation for long-term success

(Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images) Christian McCaffrey and D.J. Moore
(Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images) Christian McCaffrey and D.J. Moore /

The Carolina Panthers doubled down and built upon its young core this offseason by replacing older veterans with younger players with tremendous upside.

Owner David Tepper, general manager Marty Hurney, and head coach Matt Rhule made their intentions for the future of the Carolina Panthers very clear this offseason. Every rebuild starts with laying a solid foundation and that’s exactly what they were able to do.

They doubled down on the team’s best player Christian McCaffrey making him the highest-paid running back in the NFL. They made the tough decision of cutting ties with longtime veterans like Cam Newton and Greg Olsen. This is down to the decision-makers realizing that it would be better for their replacements to get reps in the new offensive scheme, rather than bank on experienced figures coming back to prominence.

Carolina completely overhauled the defense in the 2020 NFL Draft, selecting a total of seven players all playing on the defensive side of the ball. Derrick Brown, Yetur Gross-Matos, and Troy Pride Jr. were all taken in the first three rounds and are expected to become immediate starters. The four other prospects taken should play complementary roles and be asked to do more as their careers unfold.

The Panthers are now able to boast the extraordinary first-round talents of McCaffrey, D.J. Moore, Brian Burns, and Derrick Brown at its core. All four of these standout players will be 24-years-old or younger when the 2020 season kicks off.

The pressure of winning now has been temporarily lifted off of the shoulders of Rhule and Hurney. This has resulted in an excellent approach to rebuilding a roster void of any rational decisions that aren’t good for the team’s long-term health.

While it might take a year or two for Carolina to be back in the playoff mix, it sure beats the alternative. Think of what the Cleveland Browns have gone through the past few decades with a constant win at all costs mentality. This always had a head coach on the hot seat and never resulted in any sort of success.

The reality of the situation is that the Panthers play in an extremely tough NFC South division that features some of the best quarterbacks in the entire league. Couple this with other talented players and great coaching across the board, and it would be a real surprise to see the team contend next term.  However, these teams are aging and Carolina is making the smart move taking the patient approach rather than compromising its long-term future to compete now.

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So now the foundation is in place. Expect the Panthers to build quite the luxurious building on top of it over the next couple of years with Mr. Tepper funding it at their new HQ in Rock Hill. Hopefully, they will have a team fit for the venue by the time the franchise moves in.