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The Panthers' Plan is Clear: Build the Trenches in Free Agency

Carolina added some big boys early in free agency to protect Bryce and stop the run.

Dan Morgan put out a call for dawgs in January. 

Two days into free agency, Morgan's call has been answered. 

Carolina wasted no time showing their hand early on in the legal tampering period. When free agency officially opens on Wednesday afternoon, the Panthers' will have a ton of girth to announce to the masses.

Carolina has reportedly signed offensive guards Robert Hunt and Damian Lewis, defensive tackle A'Shawn Robinson, and linebacker Josey Jewell.

These signings scream one thing. This new era of Panthers' football is going to be dominant in the trenches. 

Carolina has a multitude of weaknesses on the offensive side of the ball. Those were on full display in the league-worst offensive performance the team put on the field in 2023. The biggest weakness (literally) was the lack of quality interior offensive linemen. 

Say what you want about Bryce Young's ability and his weapons. The rookie quarterback played most of his snaps under immense distress in a muddied pocket. Tom Brady in his prime would have struggled under those circumstances. 

That pressure led to the lack of weapons being a moot point. Carolina could have flanked Young with 2003 Steve Smith and Justin Jefferson and the quarterback would have struggled to get them the ball due to the pressure in his lap. 

Carolina saw the gaping hole in the interior of their offensive line and they slammed it shut within 24 hours of the negotiating window opening. Robert Hunt and Damien Lewis are going to walk into Carolina as a top five guard duo in the league. Both of them were extremely successful, and (more importantly) consistent in their previous stints. Combine that talent with Dave Canales' linemen friendly scheme and you've got a stew going on the seat-selling side of the ball.

The current plan is to start Ikem Ekwonu, Lewis, Austin Corbett, Hunt, and Taylor Moton on the offensive line from left to right. That fivesome should gel into a protection unit that will get the best out of Bryce Young. Add in Brady Christensen as a swing tackle/depth piece and Carolina's offensive line could go toe-to-toe with any other unit in football.

Morgan saw a need and addressed it. Carolina shelled out a hefty sum of cash on offensive guards, but it's a necessary evil in the modern NFL when quarterbacks mean so much and your's is so small. 

On the other side of the ball, the plan is just as clear. Carolina wants to dominate up front. Ejiro Evero's defense flashed at times in 2023, but it had its fair share of problems. Predominantly in the run game.

Derrick Brown had the best season of any Carolina Panther in 2023. Early on in the tampering period, the Panthers signed A'Shawn Robinson as a battering mate in the trenches for Brown. Those two compliment each other perfectly as run-stuffers in a defensive front.

Robinson comes to Carolina as a big body with a mean streak. He is the perfect gap-stuffing lineman that will let Brown be Brown and dominate his match-up. Those two should win their matchups more often than not to allow newly signed linebacker Josey Jewell to get downhill and attack ballcarriers.

I'm unfamiliar with Jewell's game, but here's what Mile High Report, a Broncos' blog, says about him.

With respect to Jewell, his high football intelligence and diagnose skills are the calling cards of his game. He’s a top-notch run defender who has been above-average in coverage over the course of his career. And almost always, those traits allow him to be in the right place at the right time. 

Sounds to me like the Panthers' are shoring up their leaky run defense. A sound strategy after watching them last season. 

Sure, need still exist on the Carolina Panthers roster. Rome wasn’t built in a day. The lack of a premier past rusher and a secondary threat in the passing game will cap the Carolina Panthers ceiling. 

However, a plan is in place, and the organization is finally moving itself in what seems like a singular direction. Congruency from top to bottom when it comes to roster building, decision-making, and a style of play. Dan Morgan and Dave Canales didn’t completely fix the Carolina Panthers through 48 hours of free agency but they’ve brought a unified front back to Mint Street and that is more than anyone could’ve asked for this time two months ago.