Chandler Zavala - Carolina Panthers OL
The only non-free agent signing on the list. But make no mistake, it was a simply brutal rookie season for Chandler Zavala.
Clips of former offensive line coach James Campen fist pumping in the draft room when Zavala was selected No. 114 overall, coupled with the prospect of teaming up with his former North Carolina State teammate Ikem Ekwonu left fans salivating. These immediate expectations couldn't be met.
Zavala was thrust into a starting spot too early. During his time in the lineup, he was arguably the worst offensive lineman to start league-wide. He allowed 33 pressures across the season according to Pro Football Focus. An incredible 14 of those came in Week 3 against the Seattle Seahawks.
According to PFF, Zavala finished the season with a 26.2 grade. This was dead last among the 79 eligible guards. Could he be one and done in Carolina? We saw something similar last season when the Panthers parted company with linebacker Brandon Smith a year after taking him in the fourth round of the 2022 NFL Draft.
The Panthers' lack of guard depth may be a saving grace for Zavala. Austin Corbett and Brady Christensen will be returning from season-ending stints on injured reserve. Cade Mays has done little to impress since being drafted. Gabe Jackson was solid enough but at almost 33 years old, isn't a long-term option. Little can be expected from Nash Jensen.
However, if the Panthers add suitable guard depth throughout the free agency period and during the draft, Zavala may be looking over his shoulder. Campen is no longer the offensive line coach. With no loyalty to the player, Joe Gilbert may look to move on.