Tom Brady has officially retired for good this time, and the Carolina Panthers are in ample position to take advantage en route to NFC South supremacy.
This time last year, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady, the greatest of all time, announced his initial retirement from the NFL to the delight of Carolina Panthers fans. That excitement lasted a month he opted to come back for one more season.
The Buccaneers did not have the swan song season that you would’ve hoped for in Brady’s last campaign. The team finished 8-9 as NFC South champions before getting annihilated by the Dallas Cowboys in the wildcard round.
Nearly a month later, Brady decided to officially end his 23-year playing career at the top and reached his goal of playing until 45 years old.
Carolina Panthers get good news with Tom Brady’s retirement
With Brady gone and an uncertain future in Tampa Bay, the NFC South is once again up for grabs heading into the 2023 campaign. It seems as though the Panthers are in an ample position of opportunity to begin their quest for a run at the division crown.
Considering how inconsistent and downright awful the Buccaneers were at times in 2022, it is hard for me to imagine them having the success that they’ve experienced over the last few seasons. There is uncertainty at the quarterback position along with an aging roster in some areas and question marks surrounding the coaching staff, specifically at offensive coordinator.
As for the rest of the NFC South, the competition looks somewhat respectable if the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons can build on their strong finishes to their respective schedules.
The Saints have a competitive roster. They acquired a first-round pick from the Denver Broncos in the Sean Payton trade yet will still be cap-stricken, which could limit their ability to sign valuable free agents.
Atlanta, on the other hand, looks like a team that is on the verge of taking the next step. Despite not having the best personnel on both sides of the ball, coach Arthur Smith gets the best out of his players and could be a sleeper heading into the regular season.
This leads to the Panthers, who might be in the best position of any in the NFC South to make a postseason run.
Carolina has had a tumultuous six months. The trade for Baker Mayfield failed miserably and Matt Rhule was canned after a 1-4 start and not much inspiration of success moving forward.
Thankfully, interim coach Steve Wilks turned things around. He brought back respectability and a good culture within a locker room that experienced so much.
Wilks was good enough to almost get his team into the postseason. But it wasn’t enough to secure the permanent head coach position.
Carolina Panthers must capitalize on Tom Brady’s retirement
Frank Reich, the team’s first quarterback in franchise history, is now the new face of the organization. He is a well-respected NFL coach who brings a championship-like mindset into the franchise and will attempt to reestablish the Keep Pounding mantra that seemed to have been missing for the last couple of years.
On top of a new coach, the Panthers have a great young foundation on their roster with plenty of talent in every phase. All that seems to be missing is a potential franchise quarterback, which the team is finally in a position to make a move on in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Looking at the current state of the Panthers’ roster, it’s well balanced that features star players such as Brian Burns, D.J. Moore, and Jaycee Horn. The team also possesses a stout offensive line that will help ease the transition for a potential rookie quarterback.
It seems that from both a roster and coaching aspect, the Panthers are in the best position to make a run on the NFC South for years to come. However, they also have plenty of needs on offense and defense, including quarterback.
In his introductory press conference, Reich said that general manager Scott Fitterer will have control over the personnel decisions as it pertains to draft selections and free agent signings, making this offseason the most crucial one of his tenure.
Hitting on a quarterback is the top priority for Fitterer. He also needs a No. 2 pass rusher opposite Burns, a playmaking slot receiver, and steady reliability at the tight end spot among other needs.
There is a lot of off-season left. Plenty of things can change for the Panthers and everyone else in the division.
Maybe, just maybe, Brady comes out of retirement again. While it seems unlikely, Carolina won’t breeze through the division as the Saints and Falcons still provide challenges in their own respective rights.
The Panthers seem to be a franchise quarterback away from a playoff run. With the right moves and Brady’s retirement, the team has a great chance at taking back the NFC South for the first time since their Super Bowl run in 2015.