A three part series grading out each NFC south teams offseason, including the 2021 NFL Draft, free agency and hires/fires. Let’s start with the Saints rivals in Carolina.
Last season the Panthers poached beloved Saints quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to hopefully become their franchise “guy.” The Carolina Panthers had a disappointing season under first year head coach Matt Rhule, finishing 5-11 and 3rd in the NFC south, awarding them with the 8th overall pick in the NFL draft.
With a long-term vision, the Panthers knew they had to make a change a quarterback. But first they started the offseason by retaining what they think is their franchise tackle in Taylor Moton, placing their franchise tag on him to keep him around for at least another season. After tagging Motton, Carolina moved on to adding depth and veteran leadership to their team in free agency. The Panthers signed deals with TE Dan Arnold, WR David Moore, LB Denzel Perryman, DE Morgan Fox, OLB Haason Reddick, OL Pat Elflein, and OL Cam Erving. Most recently they have signed veterans CB A.J. Bouye and DE Frank Herron. With a well-rounded free agency, the Panthers built a solid core of players who have added a veteran presence to a young and up-and-coming roster.
One of Panthers most important moves was retaining one of their own, offensive corridanator Joe Brady. Coach Brady interviewed with the Houston Texans for their vacant head coach spot, but keeping Coach Brady was a huge win for the Panthers. Brady was key for developing the championship LSU Tigers passing attack centered around a quarterback with high upside and a young, athletic receiving core.
The Panthers’ biggest move of the offseason came by adding former Jets quarterback Sam Darnold in a trade. The Panthers sent the New York Jets three picks - a sixth-rounder in the 2021 draft and a second and fourth-rounder in 2022 - in exchange for Darnold. In a subsequent move, the Panthers dealt Teddy Bridgewater to the Denver Broncos to recoup the 2021 sixth round pick traded away to get Darnold. The Panthers hope add Darnold to an offense with Christian McCaffrey and D.J Moore, but also to reunite him with Robby Anderson.
Come April the Carolina Panthers entered the draft with high hopes, having the 8th overall selection. With a big need at corner they took shutdown man corner Jaycee Horn, a player that the Saints had reportedly targeted.
Their next selection will be another name familiar to many Saints fans, LSU WR Terrace Marshall 59th overall. Marshall fell to them in the 2nd round after having a reported injury that scared teams away by taking him earlier. The rest of the Panther draft went like this:
- Round 3 • Pick 6 (70) • T Brady Christensen
- Round 3 • Pick 20 (83) • TE Tommy Tremble
- Round 4 • Pick 21 (126) • RB Chuba Hubbard
- Round 5 • Pick 14 (158) • DT Daviyon Nixon
- Round 5 • Pick 22 (166) • CB Keith Taylor
- Round 6 • Pick 9 (193) • G Deonte Brown
- Round 6 • Pick 20 (204) • WR Shi Smith
- Round 6 • Pick 38 (222) • LS Thomas Fletcher
- Round 7 • Pick 4 (232) • DT Phil Hoskins
The Panthers had a very good offseason in both phases of the draft and free agency. The only question is if Sam Darnold will be the guy for the Panthers or he’ll continue to see ghosts. Carolina did a good job building around him, so now we will see if its enough to push them into play contention.
Draft Grade: A-
Free Agency: B+
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