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Panthers’ offseason priorities should be Hardy, Ginn, Gross

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.

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