While Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel are the shiny new faces of the Carolina Panthers’ offensive evolution, the offensive tackle group underwent a pretty serious makeover, too.
Left tackle Matt Kalil arrived with a five-year, $55.5 million contract, the most lucrative deal the Panthers have ever given an outside free agent. Carolina then drafted mammoth Taylor Moton (6-5, 325) of Western Michigan in the second round to compete at right tackle.
The moves were made in part because of the departure of Mike Remmers in free agency and the uncertain status of Michael Oher, who missed the final 13 games last season after sustaining a concussion.
A source told the Observer on Thursday that Oher plans to attend training camp, but the Panthers have not given any clear signals that they expect Oher to be in the plans this season, putting more of an onus on Daryl Williams to take another step forward in his development.
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The Panthers didn’t take Moton in the second round to be a bystander. Moton, who was in Western Michigan’s MBA program last fall, figures to be a quick study in terms of learning the offense. And he has the size and strength that should play well on the right side. Williams will head to Spartanburg No. 1 on the depth chart, but Moton will be a factor as a rookie.
To be decided in camp
The Panthers kept four tackles on their initial, 53-man roster last year. If that’s their thinking again, that means four guys will be battling for the final spot. The group includes Dan France, Tyrus Thompson and Blaine Clausell, none of whom has played a snap in a regular-season game.
Underdog to watch
Clausell got a lot of work during OTAs and minicamp practices. He has good size (6-6, 330) and an interesting background: He was Dak Prescott’s blind-side protector at Mississippi State. Clausell was on Washington’s roster briefly last year but didn’t play in a game. Clausell will get another chance to prove he belongs on an opening-week roster.
Also keep an eye on ...
Williams, an unassuming type from Oklahoma, seems to get overlooked in any discussion of the Panthers’ tackles. But the fourth-round pick in 2015 started 10 games last year and was far from a pushover. Moton may be viewed as the right tackle of the future, but the competition could push Williams to improve his sometimes spotty pass protection.
Three bold predictions
▪ A rebuilt hip, a reunion with his brother and the tutelage of John Matsko will help Kalil rediscover the form that made him a Pro Bowler as a rookie. He may not make it back to Hawaii, but he’ll be vastly improved from his last couple of seasons in Minnesota.
▪ After cutting ties with Oher, the Panthers will sign free agent tackle Mike Adams, who was with Chicago last season. That will give the team two Charles Johnsons and two Mike Adams’s.
▪ Because of various injuries, Moton will start games at right tackle, right guard and left tackle and validate the Panthers’ use of a second-round pick on him.