Carolina Panthers 53-man roster projection: Plenty to play for at 2023 camp

Bryce Young and Frank Reich
Bryce Young and Frank Reich / Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
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Carolina Panthers LBs (9)

  • Brian Burns, Shaq Thompson, Marquis Haynes Sr., Frankie Luvu, Yetur Gross-Matos, D.J. Johnson, Brandon Smith, Amare Barno, Kamu Grugier-Hill.

Ejiro Evero's switch to a 3-4 base instantly turns the linebacking corps into an area of real strength. The Carolina Panthers still need a consistent presence opposite Brian Burns flying off the edge, but there is enough salary-cap space to make this happen in the event those on the books cannot reach expectations.

The defensive second level will be anchored by Shaq Thompson and Frankie Luvu on the interior. Both players are integral to the team's chances in 2023 thanks to their instincts, communication, and leadership.

Burns has a tremendous amount on his shoulders as Carolina's best pass-rushing option. The Panthers will make him one of the league's best-paid edge defenders before the campaign, so his production must match such a big financial commitment.

Marquis Haynes Sr., Yetur Gross-Matos, Amare Barno, and maybe even third-rounder D.J. Johnson will fight it out for the other starting outside linebacker position. Brandon Smith comes with special teams upside, but it seems as if there won't be many opportunities on the defensive rotation unless Thompson or Luvu succumb to injury.

The final spot goes to Kamu Grugier-Hill over others such as Chandler Wooten and undrafted free agent Bumper Pool. This is thanks in no small part to his special teams' influence more than anything else.