My pick for an immediate downfall in 2016 was the Carolina Panthers. (Make note of this for next season when it comes to the Dallas Cowboys, the same drum I’ve been beating for months.) My gain for bragging rights was Panthers fans gain of a 6-10 season.
Not that I hold any grudges from the amount of crap I was given by Carolina fans in 2015. No, nothing like that.
The Panthers’ obvious deficiencies in the secondary and Cam Newton’s clear impending decline for anyone who wasn’t blinded by his gaudy outlier stats in 2015 led to them not just falling from a Super Bowl contender to a playoff hopeful, but to being in the cellar of the NFC South .... and given the upswings in Atlanta and Tampa Bay, it could be awhile before Carolina gets into the postseason again.
He may have been the NFL MVP in 2015 but Newton could just be the NFC’s Philip Rivers for the next five years.
The Panthers have some money to play with this year and not much in the way of interesting free agents, so they’ll do their best to make up for cutting Josh Norman loose in 2016 and I expect them to be quite active on the market. With holes on the offensive line, skill positions, and all over the defense, Carolina already re-signed Mario Addison to a three-year deal and gave Kawann Short the franchise tag. They aren’t nearly finished. Will any of these players be of interest to the Seattle Seahawks?
You know, that team that did return to the playoffs last season.
Impending Free Agents
Charles Johnson, DE
Johnson is a great example of when “zero Pro Bowl appearances” don’t paint a fair picture of the player. In 10 seasons with the Panthers, he had three years with at least 11 sacks and two more with at least 8.5. He also didn’t become a full time starter until his fourth season in the NFL. Johnson signed a six-year, $72 million contract in 2011, then was released in 2016 only to re-sign for one more year at $3 million. He had four sacks in 13 games. Rumor has it that Carolina wants to bring him back, so I’d imagine he’s going back.
Mike Remmers, RT
He’s considered one of the worst starting tackles in the NFL. He’s destined to be a Seahawk.
Ted Ginn, WR
The Panthers also want to bring back Ginn, who is still their full time punt returner, with most of the kick return duties, and while being a decent receiver. I have no idea what kind of money he’ll get on his next contract, but I’m pretty sure it won’t be in Seattle. He may however be a fit for a different NFC West team — Ginn has played for the 49ers and Cardinals in the past.
Others: S Michael Griffin, DT Paul Soliai, FB Mike Tolbert, C Ryan Wendell, DT Kyle Love, S Colin Jones, CB Teddy Williams, CB Leonard Johnson, RB Fozzy Whittaker, ILB AJ Klein, G Chris Scott
Potential Cap Casualties
Jonathan Stewart, RB
If they released Stewart, the Panthers top returning rushers under contract would be Cam Newton (359 yards), Cameron Artis-Payne (144 yards) and that’s it. Nobody else is currently under contract. The next closest thing would be receiver Corey Brown, who is a restricted free agent, and he had two carries for six yards. However, Stewart is about to be 30 and he’s not an outstanding running back at this point. He averaged 3.8 YPC last season (Whittaker averaged 4.6, Artis-Payne was at 4.0) and he’s never missed fewer than three games in any season when he was supposed to be the unquestioned starter. Stewart is set to make $8.25 million next season, but Carolina would save $6.25 million if they released him post-June 1. There’s no doubt that the Panthers will be linked to all kinds of running backs in this draft and they’ll probably make a high-key signing, so even for a run-first team, I don’t think releasing Stewart would be that dangerous. Maybe it’s not worth it but I can’t imagine it’s not being considered.
Ed Dickson, TE
Even as a number two to Greg Olsen, Dickson’s 10 catches, 134 yards, and one touchdown aren’t going to cut it at his price tag.
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