The Panthers are also looking to get a wide receiver in the draft after cutting Steve Smith and losing Brandon LaFell, Ted Ginn Jr. and Domenik Hixon to free agency. (Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said in a report on Tuesday from David Newton of ESPN that it's more important to give quarterback Cam Newton more protection next season than it is to find him another receiver.
The comments, made a week before the NFL draft, give somewhat of an indication of the kind of player the team will look to select with the 28th pick in the first round on May 8:
"I think protecting him (is more important). You have so many opportunities to get playmakers on the field. Other than the quarterback there are five other guys who can make plays for you. I think right now what we've done is bring in guys who have the ability to make plays for us. I feel very comfortable with that."
SI WIRE: LeSean McCoy: Michael Vick is ‘way better’ than Geno Smith, will be Jets’ starter
General manager Dave Gettleman has taken a slightly different approach to the team's philosophy heading into next week, saying he would simply take the best player available, adding that Carolina could pick up a "blue goose pass-rusher" or defensive tackle.
The approach to have Newton continue rushing will remain the same for next season, said Rivera, as the franchise quarterback rehabs his left ankle after undergoing surgery to tighten lingering issues with his ligaments.