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Replacing Jordan Gross

By Jonathan Jones
jjones@charlotteobserver.com

With Jordan Gross retiring, a look at the Carolina Panthers’ roster shows no starting left tackle or a true backup. Nate Chandler showed more promise at guard than at tackle. Byron Bell is better suited at right tackle, though he struggled there at times in 2013. The team experimented with Bruce Campbell at left tackle before his injury and decided it’s best he play on the right side. So now the Panthers have a franchise quarterback with no one on the roster to protect him. Here’s a look at some options:

In free agency

Bengals T Anthony Collins: Pro Football Focus ranked him 16th among all tackles in pass protection last season when he took over for Andrew Whitworth. The Bengals reportedly would like to re-sign Collins, but they are unwilling to overpay him. For the same amount of money, Collins could see more benefit in protecting Cam Newton as opposed to Andy Dalton.

Ravens T Eugene Monroe: The 2009 first-round pick may not return to Baltimore, which might not have the money to re-sign him. He signed a five-year, $26.25 million deal when he entered the league, and he’ll be looking for a big second deal. If he finds a soft market waiting for him in two weeks at the start of free agency, the Panthers could be his landing spot.

Dolphins T Jonathan Martin: He has been out of football for a year because of the hazing/bullying scandal in Miami, but after the independent investigator’s report on what really happened in the locker room, teams may be more inclined than before to sign him. Martin isn’t a franchise left tackle, but he’ll be cheap and serviceable. He’s also going to enter a locker room and an offensive linemen room that’s warm, accepting and full of veterans.

In the draft

Notre Dame T Zack Martin: Martin didn’t allow a sack at Notre Dame in 2013 after allowing one in 2012. If teams picking above the Panthers at No. 28 view Martin as a tackle, he should be there for Carolina. But with his short arms and base, he’s considered an NFL guard, and some team could scoop him up before the Panthers’ first pick.

Alabama T Cyrus Kouandjio: At 6-foot-7, 332 pounds, Kouandjio will look like an NFL left tackle when he steps off the bus. A first-team All-American at Alabama, he has the pedigree for the job, as well. But Kouandjio tore his ACL in 2011, and some teams reportedly are failing him on his physical. He should be available at 28.

Virginia T Morgan Moses: He moved from right to left tackle before the start of his senior year and played well there. He has long arms at 353/8 inches and probably needs to add some weight to his 6-6, 314-pound frame. Moses needs a good coach to help him work out the kinks, and Panthers offensive line coach John Matsko is a good one.

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