CAROLINA PANTHERS (5-11)
LAST SEASON: The Panthers struggled to win close games in Matt Rhule’s first year as coach, which prompted the team to re-evaluate QB Teddy Bridgewater’s future and trade for Sam Darnold. But Rhule and his staff were up against it from the beginning in 2020 with virtually no offseason to help prepare a new team. It didn’t help that star running back Christian McCaffrey missed 13 games with various injuries.
FREE AGENCY: Lost WR Curtis Samuel, RB Mike Davis, DE Efe Obada, DL Zach Kerr, OL Chris Reed, CB Corn Elder, DE Stephen Weatherly, P Michael Palardy, TE Chris Manhertz, OL Tyler Larsen, FB Alex Armah. Signed LB Haason Reddick, CB A.J. Bouye, LB Denzel Perryman, OL Cam Erving, OL Pat Elflein, OL Martez Ivey, WR David Moore, CB Rashaan Melvin, TE Dan Arnold, LB Frankie Luvu. Re-signed OT Taylor Moton (franchise tag), OL John Miller, WR Brandon Zylstra, WR Keith Kirkwood, K Joey Slye, TE Colin Thompson, OT Trent Scott, LS J.J. Jansen. Traded for QB Sam Darnold.
THEY NEED: LT, DT, G, TE, FB.
THEY DON’T NEED: RB, WR, LB, K, P.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: Ohio State QB Justin Fields, North Dakota State QB Trey Lance, Florida TE Kyle Pitts, Oregon OL Penei Sewell, Northwestern OL Rashawn Slater, Alabama CB Patrick Surtain II.
OUTLOOK: Sure, the Panthers traded for Sam Darnold, but that doesn’t preclude them from taking a QB at No. 8 if Fields or Lance falls to that spot. Pitts will almost certainly be gone, so if the Panthers pass on a QB — or they’re all gone — look for them to focus on an offensive tackle. New GM Scott Fitterer comes from the Seahawks, where they have a history of trading down, so that’s a possibility. Expect the focus this year to be on offensive players after the Panthers used all seven picks on defense a year ago.
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