Overwhelmed Carolina Panthers player could be cut before Week 1

The stakes are high for the second-year pro.
Dan Morgan
Dan Morgan / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Dave Canales wanted increased competition for places across the board during his first offseason as head coach. The Carolina Panthers made vast alterations to their playing personnel in pursuit of achieving this feat. The urgency was already high after such a disappointing campaign in 2023. It's through the roof now.

Canales is giving everyone a fighting chance to establish themselves. Most starting positions look sewn up looking at how things stand currently. There's still time for that to change, which is dependent on performance levels throughout Carolina's upcoming training camp and when the preseason slate arrives.

Players gave it their all over early offseason workouts. They embraced the newfound energy and clear direction with Canales leading the charge. Not shocking when one considers most are attempting to galvanize their respective careers after things spiraled out of control last time around.

Chandler Zavala tipped as potential Carolina Panthers cut candidate this offseason

Chandler Zavala falls into this category. The fourth-round selection endured a torrid time as a rookie. Carolina's coaching deserves its fair share of blame after thrusting him into the starting lineup way ahead of time, but it's a long road back for the interior presence under a staff with no emotional attachment whatsoever.

The Panthers spent lavish sums on Robert Hunt and Damien Lewis in free agency to become their new starting guard tandem. This is an undoubted positive, but it does nothing to improve Zavala's chances of extended involvement next time around.

Schuyler Callihan from Fan Nation went one step further. He thought Zavala could be a potential cut candidate after his harrowing first season unless monumental improvements arrive. However, the writer acknowledged Carolina's lack of legitimate depth could be his saving grace when push comes to shove.

"[Chandler] Zavala was a fourth-round pick of the [Carolina] Panthers just last spring and had maybe one of the worst rookie seasons by an offensive lineman in recent memory. He allowed six sacks and committed three penalties in 374 total snaps played, earning him a PFF grade of 26.2. The Panthers are short on depth along the offensive line, but they may look to retool that second group through waivers."

Schuyler Callihan, Fan Nation

Zavala was fed to the wolves last season and suffered accordingly. It's hard to gauge what the Panthers have in the player - especially after he also went to injured reserve to put him out of his misery. Dan Morgan and Canales weren't going to wait around in their quest to get this franchise out of rock bottom status and back to respectability.

It'll be a tough challenge for Zavala to alter perceptions despite being in the NFL for just one season. That's the ruthless nature of the league. The North Carolina State product wanted to join the Panthers. Now, he must prove beyond all doubt he belongs with a fresh set of eyes to impress.

If the Panthers add another interior offensive lineman during camp or when cuts start happening around the league, it'll be the clearest sign yet that confidence in Zavala has dropped past the brink of no return. That would be a disaster for the player, who'd find life difficult getting another opportunity elsewhere.

The NFL is a cutthroat business. Morgan is running things more professionally with a business-first model that benefits the team. Although it would be surprising if Zavala was removed from the equation, it cannot be ruled out if his same subpar production continues.