The Carolina Panthers are making some major changes in 2020. They signed quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to a three-year deal and released Cam Newton. They’re so sure about Bridgewater that they decided to trade Kyle Allen to Washington for a fifth-round pick. They also signed wide receiver Robby Anderson away from the Jets.
But the offense isn’t the only aspect of the team that will be modified over the offseason. Carolina also lost key players on the defensive side of the ball. Cornerback James Bradberry signed with the New York Giants while linebacker Luke Kuechly retired after making the Pro Bowl in seven of his eight NFL seasons. That’s a lot of talent to replace.
2020 Draft Picks
Round 1, pick 7: Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn
Round 2, pick 6 (No. 38): Yetur Gross-Matos, Edge, Penn State
Round 2, pick 32 (No. 64): Jeremy Chinn, S, Southern Illinois
Round 4, pick 7 (No. 113): Troy Pride Jr., CB, Notre Dame
Round 5, pick 6 (No. 152): Kenny Robinson, S, West Virginia
Round 6, pick 5 (No. 184): Bravvion Roy, DT, Baylor
Round 7, pick 7 (No. 221): Stantley Thomas-Oliver III, CB, Florida International
Bridgewater’s ceiling is unclear, but he’s an upgrade over Kyle Allen and Will Grier, and even an injured Cam Newton. The addition of Anderson is huge for the receivers, and Ian Thomas is going to get a chance to step up following Greg Olsen’s departure. Where Carolina could use help is an improved offensive line. Russell Okung is a helpful addition, but trading out Trai Turner leaves some questions.
Losing a five-time first-team All-Pro and two-time NFL tackle leader can deal a critical blow to a defense. The Panthers won’t be nearly as good without Kuechly, but there are ways they can lessen the blow. One of the best ways to do that is by finding a young replacement who can become the next captain of the defense for years to come.
Bradberry and Ross Cockrell both regularly started in Carolina’s secondary. Can Donte Jackson hold it down on his own in year three? That’s a big ask.
Dream first pick
The Panthers have handled their quarterback situation and have a star running back, so the move that makes most sense for them is to get Isaiah Simmons to replace Kuechly with the seventh pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Simmons has size, speed, and the versatility to rush the passer and drop back in coverage. Players with his physical tools almost never come around.