The Carolina Panthers didn’t do a ton to bolster their roster on the open market. Nonetheless, this team is slightly better off—if anything—after about three weeks of 2013 NFL Free Agency and looks to be in better shape than at least a dozen teams around the league. Let’s examine the Panthers’ updated team needs heading into the 2013 NFL Draft (in no particular order).
1. Defensive Back
The Panthers acquired two cornerbacks off the open market, but D.J. Moore has started just three contests over the last three seasons with the Chicago Bears and Drayton Florence is 32-years-old and heading into his 11th season in the league.
More depth and talent is needed opposite Josh Norman—a friend of the Gridiron Grit staff who proved to be one of the best steals last April—especially after the departure of Chris Gamble, who spent his entire nine-year career with the club.
Several solid options should be available on the second day of the draft, which could include Blidi Wreh-Wilson, Darius Slay, Robert Alford, Marc Anthony and a versatile, local product out of N.C. State by the name of David Amerson.
Carolina could also look to improve at safety in the early rounds after Haruki Nakamura’s struggles with the deep ball.
2. Defensive Line
Re-signing Dwan Edwards and adding Colin Cole (who hasn’t seen the field since the 2010 season) doesn’t do much to stop the run and get to the quarterback quicker. Look for the Panthers to pounce on Sheldon Richardson in the first round, a move that would address one of the team’s most pressing needs and also put a smile on the face of Steve Smith, who has been trying to recruit Richardson this offseason.
If Carolina doesn’t land Richardson, look for the team to try to pick up one of the other top defensive linemen like Star Lotulelei or one of the top OTs like D.J. Fluker. Desmond Trufant, Cordarrelle Patterson and Tavon Austin could also receive consideration.
3. Offensive Line
Don’t be surprised if the departure of former offensive coordinator Rod Chudzinski ends up being a big blow to the offense—at least at the start of the 2013 season—since the new coach of the Cleveland Browns was so instrumental in the development of QB Cam Newton.
Improving the protection up front could make for a smoother transition for Newton and company. The team needs to find an eventual successor to left tackle Jordan Gross, who turns 33 in July, anyway. His age and injury history could cause the team to try to find a new left tackle like Lane Johnson or D.J. Fluker in the first round and move Gross to the right side. Carolina could also opt to take another lineman like Justin Pugh, Menelik Watson or Terron Armstead in the second round, keep Gross on the left side and address that side of the line in 2014.
4. Wide Receiver
Only three Panthers receivers registered at least 30 catches for 400 yards and three touchdowns in 2012. One of them was tight end Greg Olsen, who collected 69 catches for 843 yards (both career-high stats) and five TDs.
Steve Smith led the team with 73 receptions for 1,174 yards and four scores, but the 5-9, 185-pound wide out will turn 34-years-old in May. Brandon LaFell finished third on the team with 44 receptions for 677 yards and also found the end zone four times.
The team also added Ted Ginn Jr. to the roster, but he’s much more of a threat on special teams. In six seasons, he’s registered 161 receptions for 2,048 yards and six scores in the passing game with 1,425 punt return yards and three TDs at an average of 11.0 yards on 130 attempts and averaged 23.2 yards on 234 kick returns for 5,431 yards and three touchdowns.
It’s highly unlikely that the Panthers would strongly consider a wide out with their first round pick if Star Lotulelei or Sheldon Richardson still available, but if both defensive linemen are taken and Cordarrelle Patterson and/or Tavon Austin is there at No. 14, don’t be shocked if they decide to pull the trigger. It’s also possible that Xavier Rhodes could be on the board, especially if the Dolphins trade up for Dee Milliner.
Related Team Needs:
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- Jacksonville Jaguars Updated 2013 NFL Draft Team Needs
- Oakland Raiders Updated 2013 NFL Draft Team Needs
- Philadelphia Eagles Updated 2013 NFL Draft Team Needs
- Detroit Lions Updated 2013 NFL Draft Team Needs
- Cleveland Browns Updated 2013 NFL Draft Team Needs
- Arizona Cardinals Updated 2013 NFL Draft Team Needs
- Buffalo Bills Updated 2013 NFL Draft Team Needs
- New York Jets Updated 2013 NFL Draft Team Needs
- Tennessee Titans Updated 2013 NFL Draft Team Needs
- San Diego Chargers Updated 2013 NFL Draft Team Needs
- Miami Dolphins Updated 2013 NFL Draft Team Needs
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers Updated 2013 NFL Draft Team Needs
- New Orleans Saints Updated 2013 NFL Draft Team Needs
Michael Gartman is a College Football and NFL Senior Writer, the AFC South and NFC West Lead Writer and the Founder, CEO of GridironGrit.com. He’s also about to start reporting on topics across all sides of the political spectrum and analyze important issues in the liberty movement for a political website. Follow him @_MichaelGartman on Twitter. Be sure to ‘like’ Gridiron Grit on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @GridironGrit to keep up with the latest coverage on college football, the NFL and more!