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
(Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports) Troy Pride Jr. /

Troy Pride Jr. – Carolina Panthers CB

One area that the Carolina Panthers have neglected during free agency so far is their cornerback options. There are still plenty of intriguing free agents who could slot opposite Donte Jackson, with the likes of Caleb Farley and Patrick Surtain certainly under consideration at No. 8 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft.

It’s something of a surprise that the Panthers have yet to bring back Corn Elder, who did well covering out of the slot last season. Rasul Douglas is also unlikely to return despite not finding a new team as yet, so it leaves Carolina dangerously short of viable options.

This could leave an opening for Troy Pride Jr. to stake more of a claim after going through his fair share of struggles as a rookie. The fourth-round pick was like a lost sheep for large parts of his time on the field – which is not uncommon for rookie cornerbacks during their adjustment to a professional environment. But how the former Notre Dame speedster develops this offseason is of critical importance.

Putting too much on Pride Jr.’s shoulders in Year 2 might do more harm than good. Other options will arrive, of that there is little doubt. So it appears as if building the player gradually might be the best possible solution for all parties.

Pride Jr. is a work in progress, which was exactly what the Panthers expected when they took him with a mid-round selection in 2020. There is a lot to like about his exceptional speed and other physical attributes, but he needs to be a little savvier on the field against receivers who punish every mistake.