4 Panthers players who could get bigger roles after free-agent moves

(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) Troy Pride Jr.
(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) Troy Pride Jr. /
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Carolina Panthers
(Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports) Rodney Smith /

Rodney Smith – Carolina Panthers RB

Mike Davis got an opportunity to secure a No. 1 position after filling in so admirably for stud running back Christian McCaffrey in 2020. The Carolina Panthers will see plenty of the veteran after he signed a deal with the Atlanta Falcons, which also leaves them a little bit short of a primary option behind the All-Pro.

This is a problem that needs to be solved, especially if McCaffrey suffers similar problems to those which significantly hampered his campaign last time out. There are plenty of enticing options available both in free agency and the 2021 NFL Draft. But if the Panthers choose to stay in-house with then Rodney Smith is a prime candidate for more in the way of responsibility.

Minnesota’s all-time leading rusher at the college level went undrafted before Carolina swooped to acquire him. Smith was initially released during training camp before being brought back during the campaign and he made some eye-catching plays when given touches towards the end of the season.

Whether Smith is ready for a role such as this is up for debate. It would be asking a lot for someone who generated just 41 carries as a rookie, but on the flip side, it might be the making of him.

Few would begrudge Davis the chance to stake another claim for a starting role after how well he performed last season. How the Panthers replace him is one of the main remaining priorities.