Three thoughts on the Carolina Panthers and free agency:
Free agency begins in earnest now for Panthers
An agent texted me last week and asked, “Do the Panthers know free agency started?”
The big splashes occur during the first week of free agency (Brock Osweiler, Olivier Vernon, et al). Dave Gettleman has never been a big splash guy.
Gettleman would rather be methodical – his word – and sit back and let the market cool off a bit. Then he gets going during the second week, adding players who fill a need.
Gettleman signed safety Kurt Coleman during the second week of free agency last year. We all thought he was a special teams/depth guy. Instead, Coleman was a starter from Day 1 and his seven interceptions were tied for the second most in team history.
There are lots of quality players still looking for teams in Week 2 and later (Charles Tillman signed in April last year). With a few exceptions (Antoine Cason, Jason Avant, Thomas DeCoud), Gettleman has a good track record for finding them.
Eric Weddle would represent a big splash
The former San Diego safety is one of the top remaining free agents, and seems intent on taking his time to find the right fit.
Weddle is drawing interest from several teams after going to three Pro Bowls in nine seasons with the Chargers. At 31, he has said he wants to play for a perennial playoff team and the Panthers have become that under Gettleman and coach Ron Rivera.
Weddle was with Rivera and Panthers secondary coach Steve Wilks in San Diego, and there’s a mutual respect among that group. However, Gettleman traditionally has not been willing to spend big on veteran free agents, in the secondary or otherwise.
The Panthers, who were about $20 million below the cap as of Friday, could put together an attractive offer. But unless Weddle were to become a bargain, expect the Panthers to focus on other priorities.
Panthers need depth at defensive tackle
With the Panthers cutting Dwan Edwards and letting Kyle Love become a free agent, the current depth chart at defensive tackle features no one behind starters Kawann Short and Star Lotulelei.
Gettleman addressed the offensive line depth last week by signing former Ravens center Gino Gradkowksi, who will back up center Ryan Kalil and slide in at guard as needed. Likewise, expect the Panthers GM to bring in at least one free agent defensive tackle, in addition to almost certainly adding one from a very deep draft class at the position.
There’s still a chance Love re-signs with the Panthers after testing the market. Love, 29, tied a career-high with three sacks last season and is a serviceable rotational player.