NFL News & Analysis

2017 Free Agency Preview: Carolina Panthers

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 03: Charles Johnson #95 of the Carolina Panthers reacts after a play during their NFC Wild Card Playoff game against the Arizona Cardinals at Bank of America Stadium on January 3, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

What you need to know

Despite only moderate personnel movement in the offseason, the Panthers took a large step backward in 2016 from their previous season, when they reached the Super Bowl. Similarly to 2016, the Panthers are unlikely to be very active in free agency. At this stage the Panthers main goals should be to retain their own top free agents — which they have partly already done — and develop the young group of players they have on the team and complement this core through the draft.

Salary cap room

$36,548,761 (15th in NFL; as of 3/3/2017)

Biggest needs

  • Tackle
  • Edge defender
  • Running back
  • Cornerback

Notable free agents

  • Ted Ginn Jr., WR, 72.5 overall grade in 2016
  • Charles Johnson, Edge, 81.4

Must re-sign

Charles Johnson, Edge, 81.4 overall grade in 2016

The Panthers have already re-signed or tagged their most important free agents in Mario Addison and Kawann Short. The next in line is Johnson, who might not be the solution alone, but can still very much contribute on the defensive line. Although Johnson will be 31 by the time training camp starts, he was still Carolina’s best defensive lineman against the run outside of Short. In addition, he is still able to bring pressure as he recorded 4 sacks, 9 quarterback hits and 31 quarterback hurries in 2016.

Dream splash

Alshon Jeffery, WR, Chicago Bears, 77.6

It is nearly impossible for the Panthers to make a splash signing at a position of need as the free agent market lacks any superstar offensive tackles or edge rushers. Although wide receiver is not the biggest need, Jeffery could bring Carolina’s receiving corps – which at this point consists mainly of unproven young wide receivers – to a whole new level.

Top 2016 free agency prospects

Andrew Whitworth, T, Cincinnati Bengals, 91.3

One of the Panthers’ top priorities should be to provide protection to Cam Newton, as this has already cost them a Super Bowl and has not been addressed since. Even though Whitworth will turn 36 next season, he shows no signs of decline as he allowed only 14 total pressures all year, yet signing him should not be extremely expensive due to his age.

Eddie Lacy, HB, Green Bay Packers, 77.3

Jonathan Stewart turns 30 in March and he is not getting any younger. Furthermore, his yards per carry have gradually declined over the past two seasons. Although Lacy presents several question marks with his injury history and rollercoaster performance over his career, his potential could be worth the risk, especially since his history should influence his asking price.

Logan Ryan, CB, New England Patriots, 83.5

Although Carolina drafted multiple cornerbacks last year, they went through some growing pains after moving on from Josh Norman in 2016. The Panthers once again have a need at the cornerback position and while Ryan – coming off a Super Bowl victory – might not be a cheap option, he could provide much needed help both in the slot and on the perimeter.

2017 Free Agency Rankings
Top 50 free agents
Every 2017 free agent ranked by 2016 overall grade
10 free agents who can make an immediate impact
10 veteran free agents worth a one-year contract
10 sleeper free agents who could bring surprise upside
10 splash free-agent signings we’d like to see
Quarterback rankings
Running back rankings
Wide receiver rankings
Tight end rankings
Offensive linemen rankings
Edge defender rankings
Interior defender rankings
Cornerback rankings
Safety rankings
Linebacker rankings
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