It’s been no secret that Carolina has struggled to fill the void left when Jordan Gross retired in 2013. Dave Gettleman thought the answer was on the roster with Byron Bell. He was a Southpaw, Gettleman reasoned. It turned out the lefty wasn’t a left tackle. The Panthers next found a serviceable tackle in Michael Oher, but that seemed temporary at best. Oher was a little better than average, which turned out to be a lot better than Bell. Unfortunately, Oher suffered a season-ending concussion in his second year with the Panthers, exposing the problem once again.
The Panthers have yet to commit to solving the problem through the draft, and as each year passes and each draft class looks less and less compelling, the draft just may not be the solution. Many have argued that it has to be because teams don’t let good left tackles walk in free agency. Recently, some options have opened up, however, that may actually make free agency a viable option in solving this dilemma.
The Denver Broncos announced this week they would not be picking up Russell Okung’s contract option for 2017, where he would have received a four-year, $48 million contract with $20.5 million guaranteed had the option been picked up. According to the Denver Post, “The move will save the Broncos more than $11 million in salary cap space, raising their overall cap room to more than $40 million, if the NFL team cap comes in around $168 million, as expected.”
Some cite Okung’s propensity for penalties as a potential reason Denver decided not to invest in him for the long-haul, but C3 writer Ken Dye pointed out that Denver spent a ton of money on Von Miller last year and is in desperate need of a quarterback.
Okung, who played all 16 games, is a real option for the Carolina Panthers. He was Seattle’s best offensive lineman for between 2011 and 2016. He was there for the glory years where Marshawn Lynch motored Seattle’s offense. He’s probably the best option in free agency. Other potential free agent options are Ryan Clady and Kelvin Beachum.
What do you think? Should Carolina pursue Okung, stick with Oher, or look to Cam Robinson at #8 in the draft? Leave a comment below.
By the Professor, aka Tony Dunn
Follow @Cat_Chronicles for the latest Panthers news and opinions from the fan perspective.