Greg Little facing a career-defining offseason with the Panthers in 2021

Dean Jones
(Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports) Greg Little
(Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports) Greg Little /

Greg Little has to hit the ground running this offseason to stand any chance of carving out a future with the Carolina Panthers in 2021 and beyond.

To say this is a critical few months for Greg Little would be something of an understatement. The offensive tackle arrived at the Carolina Panthers with a big reputation after the team traded up to get the Ole Miss product in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft. But things have not gone to plan for the player in a professional environment so far.

Little looked like a lost sheep during his rookie campaign and the presence of a brand-new coaching staff in Carolina last season made him a relative afterthought in their plans.

They clearly preferred others and it’s not as if the tackle shined at all when he did see the field. So if the player does not impress heading into Year 3 then he might not make the roster at all.

That is what’s at stake for Little this offseason.

Greg Little has his work cut out with the Carolina Panthers this offseason.

The Panthers weren’t going to wait around on the off chance Little starts living up to his potential. They acquired Pat Elflein and Cam Erving for additional depth and drafted a potential franchise left tackle in Brady Christensen, who earned the highest-ever grade given out by Pro Football Focus for his efforts at BYU in 2020.

Couple this with the players brought back and already on the roster, and things look bleak for Little.

But all hope is not lost just yet.

Matt Rhule and general manager Scott Fitterer have shown a willingness to give players a chance who show progression and the right sort of attitude.

They might not have any emotional attachment to Little as the duo wasn’t around when he was drafted by the team. But that doesn’t mean Carolina won’t give him another chance to prove himself providing he makes the necessary strides in the weeks and months to come.

It appears unlikely that the Panthers will find a willing trade partner for Little judging by his performances over the last two years. This means his head is on the chopping block in no uncertain terms and it wouldn’t be the biggest shock in the world to see the player cut loose entirely if things continue to regress at training camp and the preseason.

This sentiment is echoed by Maurice Moton of The Bleacher Report, who named Little as a surprising veteran cut to keep an eye on before competitive action gets underway in 2021 and cited the Washington Football Team as an organization to watch if Carolina opts to go in this direction.

"The Carolina Panthers have short- and long-term options at left tackle, and Greg Little may not fall into either plan. Perhaps Ron Rivera, the Panthers’ former lead skipper, takes a flier on Little if Carolina releases him. The Ole Miss product could back up Charles Leno Jr. or battle rookie second-rounder Samuel Cosmi for the starting spot at right tackle following the departure of Morgan Moses."

Either way one looks at it, things are hanging in the balance for Little in pursuit of forging a successful NFL career.

He might end up being one of the biggest draft busts in team history if significant improvements aren’t made – and quickly – which is yet another stain on Hurney’s record and one that undoubtedly played a role in him being fired for a second time by the Panthers.

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What comes next will ultimately come down to Little and how he responds to what is obviously a huge challenge. However, the Panthers have probably drawn their own conclusions based on his previous production and this may indicate the lineman is already past the point of no return.