How much will the Carolina Panthers miss Bradberry in 2020?

Dean Jones
(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) James Bradberry
(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) James Bradberry /

What impact will James Bradberry’s free-agent departure have on the Carolina Panthers in 2020?

The Carolina Panthers lost a significant member of their secondary this offseason. James Bradberry was their No. 1 cornerback option before leaving the franchise in free agency.

This was something that was predicted by many. Bradberry enjoyed a standout spell in Carolina and given the lack of financial resources available for the organization. Their hopes of keeping the player long-term were bleak.

Bradberry eventually left the Carolina Panthers to sign a three-year, $43.5 million deal with the New York Giants. This included a $9 million signing bonus and $31.98 million guaranteed.

Realistically speaking, the Panthers were never going to be in a position to offer Bradberry this sort of money. They are up against it from a salary cap perspective in 2020 after acquiring a substantial dead cap figure of $48.1 million.

The former second-round pick out of Samford rose steadily through the Panthers’ depth chart to become an indispensable member of their defense. Bradberry had three interceptions, 51 solo tackles, and 12 pass deflections in 2019 on his way to a modest grade of 61.2 from Pro Football Focus.

Bradberry was relatively efficient despite the Panthers’ defensive struggles overall. He gave up 47 receptions from 80 targets during the season. But he was tasked with covering the No. 1 receiving option on the opposition throughout.

He is sure to be a big addition to a Giants’ defense that had a porous secondary in 2019. The Panthers would be better off with Bradberry on their roster. But how much he will be missed is going to be entirely dependent on others that step in to fill the void.

How much will the Carolina Panthers miss Bradberry?

Losing a player entering his prime is never ideal. The Carolina Panthers showed tremendous faith in Bradberry coming out of college and he repaid them with some quality production.

What comes next at cornerback is still uncertain. The team has high hopes that Donte Jackson can step into the No. 1 cornerback spot and thrive with the extra responsibility. While the player does possess some eye-catching traits. His transition into a potential shutdown corner is going to come with expected inconsistency early on.

The Panthers also utilized a fourth-round pick to take Troy Pride Jr. from Notre Dame. The speedy player is an exciting but raw prospect. And there is plenty of work to do at training camp if Carolina’s coaching staff wants him to be a day one starter.

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Corn Elder might come in as a temporary starter until Pride Jr. finds his feet. And Cole Smith is another that could feature. Second-round pick Jeremy Chinn has the athleticism to cover in the slot. But he was exposed on the outside at Southern Illinois.

This looks to be one of the more uncertain areas of the Panthers’ roster heading into the season. This means Bradberry’s loss has the potential to be felt prominently in 2020. It is going to be a steep learning curve for their current group and having someone like the New York Giant would have been a significant asset to have during their expected period transition.

Teams normally overpay for free-agent players in order to acquire their services. However, if the Panthers really wanted to keep Bradberry around, they did have the franchise tag option.

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Their reluctance to do this might indicate that the organization thought the money could be better spent elsewhere. And Bradberry was another sacrificial lamb during an offseason that saw a wealth of veteran players depart for the greater good.