Updated: Feb 1
Jordan Merritt is back with his offseason series, this time focusing on the Carolina Panthers
Bring back – Haason Reddick and Donte Jackson
Haason Reddick is a guy who the Panthers must do all they can to bring back. A lot of other teams will be looking at Reddick after a sublime 2021 season, recording 11 sacks and being a key part of this young Panthers defence. The 27-year-old was only a $6 million cap hit for 2021, a bargain. Unfortunately, he will be looking for a bit more than that. Reddick has expressed that he would like to stay in Carolina, so hopefully, a deal can be worked out to bring him back.
I think the Panthers would like to bring both Stephon Gilmore and Donte Jackson back. Maybe if they can restructure contracts and increase the salary cap which Spotrac have at $16million cap space for 2022. If they had to choose between them then I think it would make more sense to bring back Jackson, who would be a little cheaper and younger. The 26-year-old is coming off his best season as a Panther player and would pair up with 2021 1st round pick Jaycee Horn.
Bring in – Terron Armstead and Ben Jones
As mentioned above, the Panthers have a bit of work to do with contracts to give them a bit more cap space to be competitive. If they are in a position to go get Terron Armstead then it should be heavily considered. The Panthers need to strengthen their offensive line and protect whoever is behind them. Armstead is elite and arguably the best OT hitting free agency and would be a stellar pickup. The Saints are in a terrible cap situation and are going to struggle to keep the big players hitting FA in New Orleans. Although it may take a big chunk of the Panthers cap space, it would improve that OL drastically.
I think Tennessee will be doing all they can to keep hold of their offensive centre Ben Jones. If the Panthers have a small sniff at getting him, they should try. Jones has been a durable player for the Titans over the last 6 years and would be a great fit for Matt Rhule's team. Again cap space comes into it and they will have to be savvy if they don't want to be beaten out by other teams. Jones would not break the bank and they could get at least 2 years of productive play from him. Also, a quality veteran like Jones at centre would be what the Panthers need, more so if they decide to grab a rookie QB from the draft.
Round 1 Pick 6 – Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina
Trading back and accumulating more draft capital would make sense. Picking up some 2nd and 3rd round picks as the Panthers have 0 right now. QB has to be the pick here, so you don’t want to go too far back and miss your guy. I don’t like the FA quarterback market for the Panthers. Possible trade options yes, but unlikely. I like the trade back option but if they don’t get any interest it has to be Sam Howell. Howell’s form dropped a little in 2021, but that shouldn't put them off. He is still a talent and has the mechanics to be a top QB in the NFL. He showed this season he can also use his legs to make plays. another feather in his cap.
Round 4 Pick 105 – Marquis Hayes, OG, Oklahoma
This is why I would try and acquire more picks if it’s possible. Jumping from the 6th overall pick to the 105th pick. Could still get your QB and could strengthen the offensive trenches, another key area that needs addressing. Marquis Hayes has been a constant figure at left guard for the Sooners. Hayes is an excellent run blocker and with Rhule not being shy in saying he sees the offence being a more prominent running team, it seems like a good fit. Hayes also has an upside in pass pro and can be a day 1 starter for the Panthers.
Round 5 Pick 143 – Kolby Harvell-Peel, S, Oklahoma State
Going back to Oklahoma, this time the Cowboys to select safety Kolby Harvell-Peel. The Panthers will be in need of a safety, especially one to compliment Jeremy Chinn. Harvell-Peel is a potential starting strong safety who plays physical and has a nose for the ball. Even if Justin Burris is brought back the Oklahoma State Safety adds depth to the position.
Round 5 Pick 148 – Kyle Philips, WR, UCLA
Kyle Phillips is an underrated receiver with abilities that make him a game-changer at the next level. During this weekend's Shrine Bowl practices he has shown he is a twitchy receiver with high-end separation skills. Phillips would be an excellent option out of the slot and would give the Panthers an extra weapon on offence.
Round 6 Pick 200 – Ty Chandler, RB, North Carolina
Ty Chandler joins fellow North Carolina prospect Sam Howell in Carolina. Chandler has the potential to be a 3 down back with a bit more refining. Chandler has the speed to break away from defenders and reads the field well. He also takes contact well and doesn't get regularly knocked backwards. Something the Panthers are missing.
Round 7 Pick 246 - Bamidele Olaseni, OT, Utah
With the way he has played on day 1 of Shrine Bowl practices this weekend, I'm not sure Bamidele Olaseni will still be here in round 7. If he is, it's definitely worth taking a chance with him. Olaseni is a huge tackle, who has played on the left and right sides. Would make for great cover while pushing for a starting spot in the future.