Carolina Cold Front Brings Cold Cuts

There was a lot roster activity on this cold Tuesday following after another demoralizing loss to the Atlanta Falcons, which rounded out a five-game Carolina losing streak.  What normally would be quiet transactions and normal roster adjustments, however, has Panthers fans buzzing with speculation and debate.  

The Moves:

  • Jason Avant- waived
  • Nate Chandler-injured reserve
  • Mike Tolbert-activated from injured reserve
  • De'Andre Presley-activate from practice squad

The Context

Looking at the moves on paper, nothing tremendous should jump out.  There is some context to the moves, however, that makes them a bit odd--specifically cutting Jason Avant.

Avant hasn't been tremendously productive this season (21 rec, 201 yds, TD).  From everything we were told, he wasn't brought here for production, but for his character and experience.  His value was in his ability to mentor a young receiver corps on a team that lacked leadership and experience after parting ways with Steve Smith.  This move wasn't made after another game of modest offensive production; this move was made after Jason Avant offered some measured criticism after a disappointing Carolina loss, where Ron Rivera has taken significant criticism for his conservative play calling. 

Avant noted after the loss, "I’ve been in the league a long time. I know two things. You never want to give a team a chance to win a game, with how much time was left on the clock. And asking a kicker to make a 50-yard field goal with the game on the line is rough sledding." 

Since the comments, Rivera has taken the brunt of the criticism among fans and the local media, and today Avant received his walking papers.  The move wasn't that surprising, but the timing was for sure.  Rivera was immediately questioned about the move in lieu of Avant's criticism.  Rivera immediately put the Kibosh on speculation that this was related, stating "I have no idea what he said.  This has nothing to do with it.  This needs to stop right here." 

Rivera handled the issue firmly.  He was irritated by the question, but cooled off as the local press backed of the issue.  It was a little strange that he was so emphatic that he "had no idea what" Avant said, but was confident that it had "nothing to do with it."  It's hard to believe in the midst of the heavy criticism that Rivera was unaware of the comments entirely.  

There really isn't much to this move, or there shouldn't be anyway.  There are some questions concerning the timing of the move, and they weren't drummed up by a restless fan-base alone.  The national media quickly pounded on this story, emphasizing that this cut came less than 48 hours after his comments about Sunday's play calling. The cut was coming, despite Avant's comments.  According to BBR's Bill Voth, Avant's "legs were done," and at this point he really doesn't have that much to give the Panthers. 

 So really, why has this cut become a story.  First, this was chum in the water for the national media hungry for a bloody story.  Second, the local media floated the question directly to Rivera, giving the fans a taste.  Third, the organization hasn't done an extraordinary job with public relations or the timing of roster moves this season.  

The Intrigue:

So since they were making space and looking for speed, how about that big, fast guy like Stephen Hill on the practice squad? Nope, turns out that the Panthers had De'Andre Presley in mind instead.  According to Rivera, Philly Brown has impressed enough to earn a larger role in the offensive scheme, and Presley brings a similar skill set.  He didn't really expand upon what he meant by a similar skill set, noting only that he has some punt returning ability.  

Presley was a surprise addition.  None of the chatter coming out of training camp suggested that he had impressed all that much.  When you look at his measurables coming out of college, nothing stand out particularly well.  He is a former college quarterback that entered the pros as a cornerback, and then was converted to wide-receiver.  Bill Voth suggested he was the quickest guy on the Panthers roster, despite his 4.6 40-yd combine time.

Moves that Mattter

It can't be many at this point, but the Panthers did make two roster moves today that do matter.  First, Nate Chandler was placed on the IR with a torn MCL.  He will require surgery.  Chandler has played terrible this year, so his absence normally wouldn't be missed.  Carolina's offensive line has been a mess, however.  Over the past seven weeks, they have they have trotted out seven different starting lineups.  The continuity hasn't been there, nor has the protection.

Mike "Bowling Ball" Tolbert was also activated after suffering a should injury against Detroit.  Carolina's run-game has been sorely lacking, so this can only help.  I wouldn't hold my breath for how much, however, because he didn't look all that effective in the first two games or preseason.  Let's hope he can bring a toughness on third and short that we could have used last week.