LiveBall Transaction Analysis: Panthers sign everyone!
The Panthers entered 2011 with a ton of cap space due to a complete lack of salary obligation, and a number of key unrestricted free agents. GM Marty Hurney flew around the country in a last second attempt to keep the core of his team together. Hurney, by his own standards, was wildly successful. The only players the Panthers ended up losing this weekend were quarterback Matt Moore and cornerback Richard Marshall. They resigned DE Charles Johnson, LB Thomas Davis, LB James Anderson, RB DeAngelo Williams, and extended LB Jon Beason, and as icing on the cake, they acquired Bears TE Greg Olsen in a trade. Finally, the Panthers brought in TE Ben Hartsock (Jets), K Olindo Mare (Seahawks), and DT Ron Edwards (Chiefs).
All in all, the Panthers spent more than $80 million of Jerry Richardson’s money this week alone. For many baseball teams, that’s an annual payroll. For the Panthers, it bought the above. The Panthers are locked into their current team, financially. It’s not a particularly old roster, but the trouble is that because most of the team’s players are in their primes, the 2-14 result from last year should have sent shockwaves through the organization. Apparently, it did not. The Panthers big problems last year were on the offensive side of the ball, though the defense was certainly filled with it’s share of underachievers. Those underachievers are back in 2011, and the Panthers might win their gamble that their best shot at a top third defense is to re-sign everyone with an expiring contract. The Panthers have a suspect secondary, but even the declining Chris Gamble can still handle his side of the field.
The offense was a disaster in 2010, and to go back to the top of the article, it would have made the most sense for the Panthers to use the first overall pick on A.J. Green if they weren’t interested in rebuilding. It appears that the new plan is to rebuild the passing game from the ground up, while leaning heavily on the running game led by DeAngelo Williams into his twilight years, and by Jonathon Stewart behind an improving OL. Green would have given the Panthers an NFL replica offense of Jimmy Clausen’s Notre Dame team. David Gettis looks like a steal in the 6th round, but Clausen’s best ball: the single coverage deep fade down the sideline, is a ball that Gettis consistently was outjumped on, and obviously, Steve Smith is better used on quick passes and the deep dig route than any jump ball. Green would have changed the dynamic of the Panthers offense, and made this course of action tolerable.
Instead, Clausen becomes a fringe NFL player and likely career backup, and the Panthers will go as Newton goes. That makes their free agency strategy of keeping the good ‘ol boys together a bit bizarre since even assuming a strong rushing attack (hardly a guarantee), the Panthers have no plans to trade Steve Smith and don’t really have the infrastructure in place to fast track Newton’s development. By the time Carolina’s quarterback situation is solved, if it is ever solved, Smith will be in the twilight of his career as will Williams, and Stewart will be playing elsewhere thanks to free agency, and the Panthers offense may very well be Newton, TE Greg Olsen, and whatever Gettis and Brandon Lafell develop into plus future draft choices. The defense figures to be sound throughout this process, but never good enough to define the Panthers under new head coach Ron Rivera. They’ll be defined by Newton, and if Newton’s early career is defined by this open season on cash outflows, it could be far too long before the Panthers are ready to contend.