The Carolina Panthers are going to do their best to avoid a rebuild that can come with a coaching change. One of their most important moves was replacing Matt Rhule, and they hired Frank Reich as his replacement. As Reich builds his staff, he and GM Scott Fitterer can focus on trying to improve the offense as Carolina looks to win its first NFC South division title since 2015.
Carolina Panthers free agency preview
Positional needs: QB, RB, G, WR, IDL, CB depth, K
The Panthers finished second in the division last year with a 7-10 record. That was after they traded away star running back Christian McCaffrey and turned to Sam Darnold at quarterback. The defense is solid, and Reich is assembling a staff that should be able to help this team play up to its potential if they can fill the holes with the right pieces.
The only holdovers from last year’s quarterback room will be Matt Corrall and Jacob Eason. Carolina has been linked to Derek Carr but also holds the No. 9 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. Running back D’Onta Foreman is a free agent, and Chuba Hubbard didn’t quite do enough last year to suggest that he should be the starter. The Panthers traded away Robby Anderson and never replaced him, so they need another wideout that can stretch the field.
It has been a team need for years, and yet again, Carolina needs to improve their offensive line. The good news is that they are close to having a formidable unit and just need to invest in a guard. The Panthers' defense is their asset, and if they can add a defensive tackle to help Derrick Brown and Brian Burns get to the quarterback and stop the run while also adding some cornerback depth, they will be set up.
I threw kicker on here as a reminder that the Panthers once had Harrison Butker on their practice squad but lost him to the Kansas City Chiefs. Zane Gonzalez and Eddy Pineiro aren’t going to cut it season-long.
Players to target
Quarterback is an interesting dilemma. Carr would likely be a fine addition, but the front office for Carolina has really expressed interest in wanting a young quarterback to develop, which Carr is not. To get either Bryce Young, CJ Stroud or even Will Levis, the Panthers will likely have to move up in the draft, trying to surpass other quarterback-needy teams in the process. If they decide to go the free agency route, Daniel Jones or Jimmy Garoppolo seems like their best bet other than Carr for a chance to make a push in 2023.
For running back, there have been some links to Tony Pollard, which would be a huge get for Carolina. He likely won’t reach the peak of CMC’s performance, but he can do a lot of the same stuff and does it well. They could also choose to bring Foreman back on a longer deal or someone like Damien Harris, who is likely looking for another shot to be the starter in a backfield.
Allen Lazard, Darius Slayton and Nelson Agholor would all be solid wide receiver depth additions for the Panthers to look into. For a guard, a reunion with Trai Turner could work out, or they could try and sign Jon Feliciano or Isaac Seumolo. Continuing with corner depth behind Donte Jackson, Jaycee Horn and CJ Henderson, it would be smart for Carolina to go after a guy like Cameron Sutton or Jonathan Jones to add some flexibility. Finally, putting Larry Ogunjobi or Isaiah Buggs next to Brown in the interior of the defensive line could pay dividends.