So what’s next for the Carolina Panthers?
There are all sorts of decisions to be made, but Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman and his staff showed a fine knack for navigating the salary cap in 2013 and will have a good chance to do so again.
They have to try hard to retain defensive end Greg Hardy, although he will be very expensive. I would keep Ted Ginn Jr. if at all possible – the fact that Cam Newton said the 49ers were paying more “attention” to Ginn than any other Carolina receiver Sunday shows how important he is. Same with Mike Mitchell – he needs to stay.
And someone needs to talk Jordan Gross into playing another year at offensive tackle. The team needs an upgrade at offensive line for sure – I’d prefer the Panthers pick an offensive lineman or wide receiver with their No. 1 draft pick – but Gross is still too valuable to lose and could play any role necessary.
“I hope to be back,” LaFell said. “But if I don’t, I’m going to miss a lot of these guys who came in with me like Greg Hardy. ... My big brother (Steve Smith), I’m going to miss that guy if I don’t come back.”
But the fact remains the offense just needs more firepower. Ten points is hardly ever going to win you a playoff game. We saw these offensive struggles off and on all season, and that’s the side of the ball that must be improved substantially in 2014.