With the Panthers season over it’s time to take a way too early off- season evaluation.
2017 was a strange season. The team fired their General Manager a week before the regular season began, suffered a bevy of injuries, failed to develop a left tackle despite signing a pricey free agent to make things better, traded their #1 Wide Receiver during the season, and withstood a foundation shaking scandal. That scandal forced ( that’s what happened) owner Jerry Richardson to sell the team.
Despite all of that, they went 11-5 and made the Playoffs. First the team’s sale needs to be quick, I think it will be and of course the franchise must remain in Charlotte. I’m not a Mary Hurney fan but it’s likely he will remain as General Manager. He is the guy after all that made the moronic decision to trade up and draft Armanti Edwards. Sorry, as much as I love Appalachian State Football, Edwards was a total bust and everyone knew he would be. Here are the priorities in order as far as the talent on the field is concerned.
1. Even Cam Newton haters have to understand, he didn’t have much to work with on offense in 2017. He was great at times, horrible at times but overall was good and that was with some pretty significant shoulder issues that limited him for about half the season. He must develop better mechanics and work the short passing game better. The Panthers can win a Super Bowl with Cam at quarterback but he needs some weapons.
2. Ron Rivera has signed a contract extension and did a terrific job in 2017. Holding the team together with the GM being fired and owner being disgraced was not easy. He might lose both his coordinators. Defensive coordinator Steve Wilkes might get a head coaching job and Mike Shula might ride off into the sunset too or the team might decide it’s time to make a change in offensive scheme. I am not an overall Shula fan, nor a hater but it might be time for him to go.
3. Priority number 1 is getting a stud safety. The young corners are good but Kurt Coleman is only a notch above average, the other corner spot must be addressed in free agency and or the draft.
4. Wide Receiver must be addressed in multiple fashion. It would be priority number one but I see some promise in the injured Damiere Byrd and Curtis Samuel.
5. The running game was horrible outside Cam Newton. Take away his yards and the team is among the worst in the NFL at running the ball. Jonathan Stewart will not be back. He is over $5 million against the cap next year and the team needs to get someone to replace him. Christian McCafferey is not an every down pound it between the tackles guy, I’d like to see him more in the passing game and whomever replaces Shula will develop that if in fact Shula leaves.
6. Offensive Line is good at center and guard but less than that at tackle. A Stud tackle is a must in the draft.
7. The Panthers might look at a quarterback in the late rounds as a project. Derek Anderson is an unrestricted free agent and can leave. The Panthers should give him a two year deal and keep him around.
8. Julius Peppers was a terrific addition in the 2017. He can leave but if he wants to play another season, let’s hope he would want to stay in Charlotte.
9. Kicker Graham Gano is top notch and is an unrestricted free agent. I know he missed that field goal against the Saints but it would be nice to get him back.
10. Wear the Powder Blues more often, I love ’em !