4 free agents that could let Scott Fitterer go with BPA in the draft

(Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports) Alejandro Villanueva
(Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports) Alejandro Villanueva /
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Carolina Panthers
(Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports) Sam Darnold /

Which free agents could the Carolina Panthers target in free agency so that they can select the best player available in the 2021 NFL Draft?

Considering how much the Carolina Panthers were up against it from a salary-cap perspective heading into free agency, the organization did a phenomenal job of maximizing the resources available to bring in some notable additions that should help their chances of progression. Matt Rhule recently praised cap guru Samir Suleiman for his work in recent weeks, which has the roster looking better now than when the 2020 campaign came to a conclusion.

This has put the Panthers in a strong position ahead of the 2021 NFL Draft. General manager Scott Fitterer has outlined his desire to go into a critical weekend with the intention of selecting the best player available – which sounds nice – but there are some obvious problems that need to also be solved.

Acquiring quarterback Sam Darnold from the New York Jets opens things up dramatically. Carolina now has the luxury of looking at multiple different positions rather than focusing on a signal-caller at No. 8 and beyond. But whether the former USC star is the long-term answer at the position remains to be seen.

With this in mind, let’s take a look at four free agents still on the market that could now be available on the cheap and allow the Panthers to go with the best prospect available during the draft.

Player No. 1

Carolina Panthers
(Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports) Alejandro Villanueva /

Alejandro Villanueva – OT

  • 2020 team – Pittsburgh Steelers

One glaring problem that needs solving where the Carolina Panthers are concerned is blindside protection. The team has put in plenty of band-aids since the retirement of left tackle Jordan Gross in 2013, so they might use the draft to finally get a long-term solution such as Penei Sewell or Rashawn Slater at No. 8 overall.

However, if the Panthers are infatuated with one of the skill position players, then bringing in someone like Alejandro Villanueva could be a solid option next season if the price is right. The left tackle parted ways with the Pittsburgh Steelers this offseason and is surprisingly still looking for a new home, especially when one considers just how well he performed in 2020.

Villanueva gave up three sacks and conceded four penalties on his way to an impressive 74.9 grade from Pro Football Focus. Much will depend on the money involved, but the Panthers still have more than $16 million in cap space available before signing their rookie class, according to Spotrac.