The Carolina Panthers are headed in a new direction with new quarterback Sam Darnold and some of the other moves the team made this offseason suggest that they are ready to compete and win games now.
A year ago, the Panthers made wholesale changes and let go of some big names such as QB Cam Newton, TE Greg Olsen, S Eric Reid, DL Gerald McCoy, LB Bruce Irvin, and several others. Aside from signing Robby Anderson, the team really didn't make any splash signings and brought in a lot of low profile players and even signed 17 players as undrafted free agents to help fill out the training camp roster.
This offseason was a bit different. The Panthers signed some quality veterans on the defensive side of the ball in free agency such as LB Denzel Perryman, LB Haason Reddick, CB A.J. Bouye, CB Rashaan Melvin, and DL DaQuan Jones. In the draft, Carolina landed a shutdown corner in Jaycee Horn, found Curtis Samuel's replacement (Terrace Marshall Jr.), and selected nine others in an 11-player haul. Instead of singing a large number of undrafted free agents, the Panthers only signed four which goes to show how far along this roster has come in just the past couple of months.
Despite the improvements made on both sides of the ball, the Panthers actually fell two spots in the MMQB Power Rankings to No. 27. Carolina was No. 25 after the Super Bowl back in February.
Teddy Bridgewater out; Sam Darnold in. The Panthers opted to buy low on a young QB, rather than take more of a blank slate with Justin Fields or Mac Jones. Time will tell if they made the right call. Matt Rhule has a very long contract, but ownership will still likely want to see more than five wins in Year 2.
I'm usually in agreeance with the folks at the MMQB but not this time. Will the Panthers make the playoffs? Probably not but there's no way this roster is worse than it was back in February. They made an upgrade at quarterback, added some weapons to go along with Christian McCaffrey, DJ Moore, and Robby Anderson, and filled a lot of needs on the defensive side of the ball. Having the youngest team in the NFL will make for a long, challenging season but I do not believe the Panthers are better than just five other teams (Jaguars, Eagles, Bengals, Lions, Texans).
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