Free agency is just around the corner and the Carolina Panthers have some glaring holes to fill. The team has recently opened up some much-needed cap space. According to Spotrac they now have just over $37 million available to spend this offseason, giving them the seventh-most in the NFL. It will be interesting to see how GM Scott Fitterer approaches his first offseason in Carolina. One would think that finding a corner to play opposite Donte Jackson will be at the top of the list.
Here are a few free-agent CBs the Panthers should consider signing:
At the start of the offseason, this move would have been impossible for the Panthers to make. Sherman is expected to demand $13-15 million a year. But with the recent moves to create more cap space, Carolina is suddenly in the market to sign the veteran cornerback. Sherman will be 33 years old when the season begins but he is still a valuable piece for a defense that desperately needs a big corner. At 6-foot-3 he can still go head-to-head with the best receivers in the game. The NFC South features so many big-time wideouts like Michael Thomas and Mike Evans that the Panthers do not currently have an answer for. Sherman has undeniably slowed down in recent years but he is just one year removed from being PFF's No. 1 ranked CB. He also has some history with Fitterer, who was employed by the Seahawks when Sherman was drafted. This could come into play if a contract is negotiated.
Rhodes had a nightmarish 2019 in which he got beat routinely in one-on-one coverage. He bounced back last season, however, proving that the previous year was just the result of playing through injuries. Rhodes will be 31 when the season begins but his play last season proves that he has another couple of years left in the league. Another positive about the former Minnesota Viking is that he will demand significantly less money than Sherman. At 6-foot-1 he isn't as tall as Sherman, but he would still be able to match up with bigger receivers if given some safety help over the top.
Kevin King has spent the last four seasons with the Green Bay Packers where he was drafted in the second round back in 2017. King ran a 4.43 40-yard dash at the NFL combine which is outstanding given his 6-foot-3, 200-pound frame. The talent is there with King although his play on the field has not always matched this talent. The Panthers would be betting that a change of scenery could unlock the 26-year-old's true potential. The Packers' defense relied on using a lot of zone coverage which did not always suit King's skillset. Putting him in man-to-man coverage would benefit him on his new team.
A theme of this article has been big corners because the Panthers lack one on their current roster. At 5-foot-11, Darby is on the shorter side but his play more than makes up for it. He has been very consistent since he entered the league in 2015. He excels in man-coverage. The knock on him is his inability to stay healthy. He has played all 16 games just once in his six-year career. Still, he is worth the risk given his exceptional ability when he is able to suit up.
Quinton Dunbar had a rough 2020 season due to nagging injuries. He is another big corner to make the list at 6-foot-2. Unlike Darby, Dunbar has had an inconsistent career. He has struggled at times to be trusted in one-on-one situations. A lot like King, the talent has never been in question. The only worry is if he will be able to stay with opposing receivers game after game. Dunbar is worth the risk as long as the contract is on the lower end for a CB until he proves that his potential can meet production.
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