NFL Offseason Outlook: Improving QB Spot, Defensive Backfield Keys For Panthers

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Not much was expected from the Carolina Panthers in 2020, as the team was looking to rebuild with new quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and new head coach Matt Rhule.

The Panthers wrapped up the season at 5-11, even though they sat at 3-2 five weeks into the season.

The club dropped five straight to end any hopes of a potential surprising playoff run, but they are now hoping that the struggles they had in 2020 will translate into a more successful 2021 campaign.

Last season, the Cats were 24th overall in points, scoring 350 total (21.9 per game). Their defense allowed 25.1 points per game, good for 18th of the 32 teams in the league.

After massive issues on offense in 2019, the team played better in that department in 2020, with Rhule and new OC Joe Brady leading the way.

Brady, who is just 31 years old, spoke to a couple of teams about coaching jobs this offseason, but eventually he decided it was better to stay put and continue his current path with the Panthers

Carolina still has plenty of work to do on defense, as the team’s secondary is still very young and very much a work in progress.

This is an area where free agency and the draft will come into play in 2021. Look for Carolina to pickup some players who can help in the defensive backfield.

When it comes to spending, the Panthers come into the 2021 free agency period with $7.132 million of cap space.

The club has 25 free agents as they enter 2021, and here’s the current list for the team as they look to make some tough decisions on both sides of the ball:

FB Alex Armah, 27
WR Pharoh Cooper, 26
RB Mike Davis, 28
TE Seth Devalve, 28
T Matt Kaskey, 24
WR Keith Kirkwood, 27
C Tyler Larsen, 30
TE Chris Manhertz, 29
G Taylor Moton, 27
T Russell Okung, 32
G Chris Reed, 29
WR Curtis Samuel, 25
G Michael Schofield, 31
G Trenton Scott, 27
TE Colin Thompson, 28
WR Brandon Zylstra, 28
CB Rasul Douglas, 26
CB Corn Elder, 27
LS J.J. Jansen, 35
DE Efe Obada, 29
S Kenny Robinson, 22
K Joey Slye, 25
OLB Julian Stanford, 31
LB Adarius Taylor, 31
LB Tahir Whitehead, 31

Offseason Outlook: The Panthers have a couple players they are going to want to keep, especially running back Mike Davis, who played for injured Christian McCaffrey last season and rushed for 1,015 yards and 8 touchdowns. Davis isn’t going to be easy to keep because he’ll want to be starter somewhere, and with McCaffrey locked into a $64 million deal for four seasons, the Panthers just won’t have the money to go around.

The team also has a tough call to make on 25-year-old wide out Curtis Samuel, who ended the season with 77 catches for a career-high 851 yards and 3 touchdowns. He also rushed the ball 41 times for 200 yards and two touchdowns. New Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer has the tough task of deciding whether they keep Samuel, who could be a star in the making if the Panthers can get a quarterback in the fold.

Speaking of which, the team is going to look around and see if there is an upgrade for Bridgewater, who last season went 4-11, throwing for 15 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. The team wants to make the QB position one that will scare other teams, and Bridgewater just isn’t that player.

Don’t be surprised to hear the Panthers mentioned in a potential trade for a quality quarterback such as Carson Wentz, Sam Darnold or even Deshaun Watson. If they can get a QB on the trade market, they won’t have to spend money on one in free agency.

The Panthers are drafting 8th in the 2021 NFL Draft on April 29th, and defense likely will be the name of the game. The team definitely has to get better in that area.

Look for this team to keep its options open when it comes to picking up players to help on the defensive side of the ball and to get better under center in 2021.

Written by Matt Loede

Matt has been a part of the Cleveland Sports landscape working in the media since 1994 when he graduated from broadcasting school. His coverage beats include the Cleveland Indians, Cleveland Browns and Cleveland Cavaliers. He's written three books, and won the "2020 AP Sports Stringer Lifetime Service Award."

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