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 Hakeem Nicks James Jones Miles Austin Steve Smith

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