Jan 12, 2014; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) with the ball as San Francisco 49ers outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks (55) defends in the first quarter of the 2013 NFC divisional playoff football game at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Can the Carolina Panthers Salvage 2014 NFL Free Agency?


Obviously it wasn’t the only need but getting a wide receiver or two was paramount for the Carolina Panthers.  Thus far in 2014 NFL free agency, they’ve failed.

Steve Smith exit and Hakeem Nicks whiff leave Cats in dire straights

Running the ball and Cam Newton making plays were the primary reason, besides dominant defense of course that the Carolina Panthers made the playoffs.  However, after watching the game against San Francisco it remains clear the Cats are starving for legitimate playmakers at wide receiver.  So that is why it was somewhat of a head scratcher when the team decided to part ways with longtime veteran Steve Smith.  Despite his diminishing impact at age 34 he was still the best option Newton had.  Perhaps it was a money thing or perhaps the Panthers felt they could cover the loss easily on the open market.  Clearly that hasn’t been the case.  Eric Decker signed in New York, Emmanuel Sanders bounced from Pittsburgh to Kansas City and landed in Denver and the Panthers’ supposedly slam dunk option, Hakeem Nicks bypassed them for a chance to play with Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts.  To date the only offensive addition Carolina has made is tight end Mike McNeill, who has five catches for 36 yards in three years.  The market is drying up awfully fast and the team must do something or they risk handcuffing their entire strategy for the upcoming draft with the absolute need to get a receiver.  Are there any legitimate options left?

James Jones and Miles Austin among last realistic options before draft

Experts would say yes, but not without some red flags.  Probably the best names available in terms of production and age would be James Jones.  The former Green Bay Packer was a reliable target for Aaron Rodgers, boasting good hands and the ability to get himself open.  He’s 29-years old, scored 14 touchdowns in 2012 and had 817 receiving yards this past season despite missing two games.  He won’t save the Carolina Panthers passing attack by himself but he can at least ease some of the damage.  Then there is former Dallas receiver Miles Austin.  At one time he was a go-to target for Tony Romo but has struggled to stay healthy since 2011, most often due to hamstring problems.  When 100% though he is very productive, posting 943 yards in 2012 in his only full season in three years.  He too is 29-years old and should come cheap, which is exactly what the somewhat cash-strapped Panthers want.  There are other asterisk names like Kenny Britt, Mario Manningham and Lance Moore but the fact remains the same.  If they are going to find a difference-maker at wide receiver, 2014 NFL free agency may not be the answer anymore.  The best they can hope for is getting a solid #2 guy who can provide reliability and veteran leadership.

Tags: 2014 Nfl Free Agency Carolina Panthers Featured Hakeem Nicks James Jones Miles Austin Popular Steve Smith

  • Panther Hines

    It won’t take any worth at all to replace the 28th ranked passing attack. They were not good. There are still a ton of guys available: Britt, Austin, Rice, Cotchery, Alexander, Moore, Meachem, Ford, Collie, Burleson, DHB, Manningham, Morgan…even Desean Jackson may end up getting cut. Any teo of those guys would be just as good as what they had the last several years plus we can assume the Panthers draft a WR in the first two rounds, most likely the first and then double dip later on in the draft. Plus there are still good TEs available lie Fred Davis who would be just as helpful if not more than a wr. Nicks hasnt proven anything lately. Britt has been just as good at times. Alexander has been just as good more recently. Austin is still a solid #2. Ginn gives nothing that Moore doesn’t give but Moore has better hands. Burleson is extremely reliable. …..I’m not worried about it at all bc they proved last year that we dont even need top notch wrs to win the division. I’m only worked about a LT to replace Gross. Other than that we are ALLLLLL GOOOOODDDDDD

    • Erik Lambert

      Love the optimisim, Hines. Hope you’re right because all those receivers you just listed have a lot of red flags around them. Britt is a known malcontent, as is Jackson. Meanwhile Meachem, Alexander, Collie, DHB, Austin, Rice and Manningham have injury histories while Moore, Burleson and Cotchery are battling age. You could be right, but I’m sure your best hope is what they pull off in the draft.

      • Panther Hines

        We have no reason not to be optimistic. Think about it Erik, we are trying to reconstruct the 28th best passing attack in the league. Not having a QB like Sanchez, Gabbert, Henne, Shaub, Geno, Cassell etc should account for that task alone. Replacing the mediocre pieces we had last year just won’t be that hard. When healthy, Britt & Alexander are better than any wr we had last year and they’re both bigger than anyone we had last year which is something Cam desperately needed. Smith just had name recognition but the talent level isnt there anymore. His best attribute these days is his ability to get inside defender’s heads. We cant replace that part but we can absolutely replace his stats. LaFell is a great blocker but his greatness ends there. Ginn has terrible gands and doesn’t run the best routes. Bring in 2 or 3 of these guys and draft one of the top wrs in this class and then grab a guy like Michael Campanero in the 4th or 5th round and we will be completely reloaded and more dangerous than weve been in years. Think Money Ball!! #ingettlemanwetrust

        • Erik Lambert

          This is a deep class for sure but can you trust that this team won’t devote more attention to the offensive line and defense? You did just lose Gross at left tackle along with Mike Mitchell at safety and Captain Munnerlyn at corner.

          • sharod martin

            The Panthers have a group of unknown WR’s, so maybe at least one will be decent. Look at Gettleman’s entire record and it’s obvious Carolina could be doing worse… Carolina STILL has a stout defense, even with the loss of Mitchell and Captain. Offensively, yeah its pretty ugly right now. Carolina has the tools for a good running game, minus a full OL. I say Carolina needs to invest heavily in MORE hog mollies for the offense and Carolina just needs to do goal line plays the entire season. Heck, just put the def line in for the off line and let Kuechly be a RB. Let’s REALLY mix things up Gettleman!

          • Erik Lambert

            I never turn down a good bit of sarcasm. The fact is they can wait to invest at receiver in the draft when you come right down to it. Tackles on the other hand should probably be taken early.

          • Panther Hines

            I can guarantee you that their top two picks will not both be o line. They will sign a LT before the draft so the line will be set with x player, Silatolu, Kalil, Kugbila, Bell. Not exactly dire straits but could use upgrades for sure. They have 7 picks right now and will hope to get the most out of all of them. As for the defense, Captain and Mitchell both had the best year they’ll ever have because they’ll never play behind that front 7 again. Godfrey is better than Mitchell if hes recovered fully and not cut. Lester and Harper at SS will do just fine. Norman or Moore can step up in Captains role and dont be surprised if Florence returns on a friendly deal. Bam, identical defense. They could draft a CB or SS early if thats what the board says to do, of the value isnt there at other positions of need. Also you have to look at Gettlemans draft history. It tells us that he doesnt like drafting o lineman high in the draft. If you look at gis drafts with NYG, he only drafted like 2 guys for the o line in the top two rounds over his entire tenure there. However, it has happened and they’re bringing in Moses for a pvt workout, I think Cyrus failed Carolina’s physical. His draft strategy is and will always be to have your hokes filled so that you’re adding the absolute best player when you’re on the clock. And that means the best player available and the best player for the future of your team. The tan is in a position to no doubt need an infusion of youth on offense and especially at the WR/TE positions which is why I feel so confident that at least 2 wrs will be drafted. At the end of the day, I still have my faith bc hes not given any reason to not have faith. There are far too many Panthers fans posting ridiculously hateful comments when the truth is that there is a plan and we will be just fine. These are professionals and we, the fans, are not and the media just stirs the pot.

  • sharod martin

    With Smiths age, it’ll only take 2 good WR’s to replace him, so the Panthers still have a shot. Ginn will also be missed, but it wasn’t like the Panthers offense was highly ranked…. Regardless though, Smith will be missed.

    • Erik Lambert

      They need to do something. At least add a complimentary piece or two before the draft. This sitting around isn’t helping their cause.

  • Chatty Kathy

    Take Allen Robinson. I don’t see any of the lineman other than Lewin, Robinson, Matthews or Martin worth drafting in the first round. Mike Campenerro would be a good later round pick. Just my two sense.