This offseason will be an interesting one as new Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer will begin to make his mark on the organization. Free agent signings, draft selections, and trades will all be the "exciting" part of the offseason but it all starts with going through the roster and figuring out which guys you want to come back and which guys you want to part ways with.
Today, I look at some of the notable unrestricted free agents and give my take on what the Panthers should do with each player.
RB Mike Davis - Re-sign
In my opinion, Davis was the biggest surprise of the 2020 season on the offensive side of the ball. Would I be saying that had Christian McCaffrey stayed healthy? Probably not because he wouldn't have received anywhere near the touches he did with him out of the lineup.
Regardless, Davis stepped up and proved that he is worthy of not only having a role in the Panthers' offense but that he is good enough to be a starting running back in the league. It seems like Davis wants to come back but he'll certainly be hearing from other teams to be their No. 1 back which could be enticing.
CB Rasul Douglas - Re-sign
The depth at corner for the Panthers was so bad in training camp that just days before the first game of the season, Carolina snatched up Rasul Douglas. Douglas played extremely well early on in the season but sort of fell back to reality in the latter half of the season. If Douglas can become more consistent, there's no doubt in my mind that he can be a quality starter for the Panthers' defense.
CB Corn Elder - Let walk
Elder was one of the bigger surprises for me on the defensive side of the ball as he finished with 40 tackles, one tackle for loss, three pass deflections, and one forced fumble. Despite playing above expectations, I'd try to replace him either through the draft or in free agency.
TE Chris Manhertz - Re-sign
Matt Rhule said it himself, Chris Manhertz may just be one of the best blocking tight ends in the NFL and he wasn't wrong. He is not a major threat in the passing game but has the ability to make plays if needed.
OG John Miller - Let walk
I actually thought Miller played fairly well in his first year with the Panthers. He wasn't great by any means but more often than not he got the job done. With that said, I think at best, he's a backup. I quite honestly would not be surprised to see the Panthers use multiple draft picks on the offensive line so I would let Miller go and draft a solid guard in the early-middle rounds.
OT Taylor Moton - Re-sign
If I'm Scott Fitterer there's no way I'm letting Taylor Moton sign with another team. He is by far the most reliable and consistent starter on the offensive line. Heck, you could go as far as saying he's one of the best right tackles in all of football. To really get the rebuild going in Carolina, it all starts in the trenches. Fitterer knows that, so it'll all come down to Moton's interests.
OT Russell Okung - Let walk
Okung is an aging left tackle that has dealt with several injuries and has played in just 13 games over the last two years. There's a lot of really good options in the draft even all the way into the 2nd and 3rd rounds, so I'd look more in that direction than overpay for an aging vet.
WR Curtis Samuel - Re-sign if possible, may have to let walk
If it's possible, you re-sign Samuel. However, I just don't see how they will be able to do that, fill other spots on the roster and remain under the salary cap. Cap manager Samir Suleiman will be a busy man this offseason constantly crunching numbers. If he can find a path to bringing Samuel back, there's no question as to what to do.
LB Tahir Whitehead - Let walk
I was severely unimpressed by Tahir Whitehead. I expected a lot more out of him for a guy that came to Carolina having four straight years of at least 100 tackles. He lined up wrong, didn't stay home when he should have on runs, overshot gaps, and just flat out looked out of place. Jermaine Carter Jr. had a promising finish to the season, so I think it's best to part ways with Whitehead and move in a different direction.
Other notable unrestricted free agents: FB Alex Armah, WR Pharoh Cooper, LS J.J. Jansen, C Tyler Larsen, G Chris Reed, G Michael Schofield III, LB Julian Stanford, LB Adarius Taylor.
Restricted free agents: WR Keith Kirkwood, DE Efe Obada, OT Trent Scott, WR Brandon Zylstra.
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