Bank of America Stadium is under renovation, and from our newspaper parking lot the past few days you could see workers clambering around on top of the Carolina Panthers’ scoreboard and cranes jutting toward the sky.
The Panthers’ team is under renovation, too. As the deepest wounds from the 23-10 playoff loss to San Francisco are now mostly cauterized, I am asked more and more by Carolina fans to look forward, not back.
So here are five things I would do in the next few months if I were Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman. I have publicly advocated extending the contract of head coach Ron Rivera already, so this column focuses on what the Panthers should do on the playing field in moves that would affect the team’s salary cap.
I would like to see the Panthers re-sign Ted Ginn Jr. as the punt returner and the third receiver, but he is not enough. Charlottean Hakeem Nicks, a free agent, will and should be strongly considered by Carolina in the free-agency market. But the draft class for wide receivers is stronger than the free-agency class. And you can’t break the bank for Nicks, who has been hurt a lot and didn’t score a touchdown in 2013.
But the Panthers scored only 10 points against San Francisco in both meetings this past season, and that’s simply not enough.
In the 10 playoff games so far this postseason, every single one has been won by a team scoring at least 23 points. Scoring has to be the Panthers’ No.1 offseason priority, and one more superb receiver would be a quick way to move toward that goal.
You know those three running backs that the Panthers have plowed so much money into? You just can’t let those guys get hit 2 yards behind the line of scrimmage on every other down. You can’t have the sort of red-zone issues Carolina had against the 49ers. If I were Gettleman, I’d try for “hog molly” offensive linemen twice in the first three rounds of the May 8-10 NFL draft.