This offseason has already gotten off to a better start than last year’s; with nearly half as many players set to be off the books, the talent of 2015’s pending free agents pales in comparison to that of last year’s. Still, there are questions that need to be answered, and players that should be re-signed. Here’s my opinion on what actions Gettleman should take.
QB Joe Webb
Webb’s contributions this year are ones that don’t always show up on the box score. A valuable special teams player and is added insurance in case Cam and Derek Anderson go down. He also provides emergency depth at wide receiver and good locker room presence. Webb should be kept around unless Gettleman thinks he can get an upgrade at the third QB spot in undrafted free agency, maybe Cody Fajardo?
Verdict: Re-sign 1-2 year deal
LB Chase Blackburn:
One of the trickier decisions to make this offseason, the 31-year-old Ohio native had his season cut short due to injuries. With AJ Klein’s steady play, and rookie Adarius Glanton showing promise, Blackburn may fall victim to the numbers game. He does provide good special teams play that Carolina direly needs, and is a good mentor to the young linebackers.
Verdict: Re-sign to a 1 year deal
TE Ed Dickson:
He had a disappointing season to say the least. I personally thought his addition would bring back something reminiscent to the Shockey/Olsen duo of Cam’s rookie year. He started to make his presence known towards the end of the season, and he has stated several times he wants to be back. I love players with his attitude towards our team, and he is also well liked in the locker room. Nevertheless, this is a business, and with Greg Olsen firmly in place along with youngsters Brandon Williams/Kevin Greene waiting their chance. It would be easier and more worthwhile to test the younger players or find another tight end in the draft.
Verdict: Let him walk
DT Dwan Edwards:
If you look solely at the stats, Edwards was our best defensive tackle last season. The 33 year old had more tackles and sacks than any other defensive tackle for the Panthers. At the twilight of his career, it would be smart to bring him back just in case Star’s injuries keep popping up. Kyle Love’s name keeps floating around and getting several fans excited and the former Patriot has some promise too. But if any injury were to occur next season, I’d be eased to know we have a solid veteran ready to step in.
Verdict: Re-sign 1-2 year deal
DT Colin Cole:
The space eater’s best days are clearly behind him, and the front office probably realizes that. With the younger aforementioned Kyle Love possibly ready to receive playing time, there is really no need to keep Cole.
Verdict: Let him walk
OT Byron Bell:
Easily one of the most despised players for Panther’s fans this season, and it was justified. Grading out as one of the worst tackles in the league this year, most fans wish Bell would leave the face of the planet. We must remember he wasn't completely terrible while playing the right side. The Panthers need help on the offensive line, but we can’t have Bell starting next year to compete.
Verdict: Let him test free agency, if he gets a decent deal, let him walk. If he doesn’t, bring him back to add experience, competition, and depth.
C Kevin Matthews:
Kevin who? Matthews was undrafted in 2010 and has jumped around the league since then. His biggest claim to fame is his last name; he is a member of one of the NFL’s greatest families. His father is a Hall of Fame offensive tackle, his brother is Jake Matthews, tackle for Atlanta, and his cousin is that blonde haired guy from Green Bay.
*Verdict: *Let him reunite with his younger bro
CB James Dockery:
Dockery is just another guy right now. A Panther since 2012, he really doesn't have much to show for it. His career at Carolina probably hinges on the development of players like Carrington Byndom.
Verdict: Let him walk and give the younger guys a shot.
G Garry Williams and Chris Scott:
Two lineman that can play multiple positions on the line and provide solid depth in doing so. It would be wise to bring at least one back and provide depth at one of Carolina’s weakest position group.
Verdict: Re-sign one, probably Scott, to a one year deal
DE Greg Hardy:
Whew, saved the best for last on this one. When Hardy is on the field, he is one of the most dominate run-stopping/pass-rushing defensive lineman in the game. Our pass rush was notably worse with him on the exempt list, and boy, our team really relies on rushing the passer. If he is cleared in his upcoming trial, the Panther’s have the inside track on re-signing him to a cheap deal. Josh Norman said he’d play for free (which I highly doubt, but the point is understood), and we’d be foolish to let him go to a rival, such as the Falcons, making Carolina pay the price twice a year. His off field concerns are concerning, but he may have learned his lesson. I say if he isn't charged in his upcoming trial, and Gettleman feels he wont screw us again, why not? Charles Johnson is getting old, and young defensive ends like Ealy usually take until year three to break out.
Verdict: Feel him out, and try to sign him to a “prove it” deal. If it’s sub 10 million a year, watch out.
By Grant Hughes Follow him on Twitter @KenjonVander