Tom Sorensen

Panthers fill almost every need in free agency, setting up ... disappointment?

Don’t look now, but the Carolina Panthers filled nearly every need in free agency (including bringing back Julius Peppers), freeing them to draft the best player at No. 8.
Don’t look now, but the Carolina Panthers filled nearly every need in free agency (including bringing back Julius Peppers), freeing them to draft the best player at No. 8. AP

Spending as freely as the Panthers did in free agency is out of character. It suggests that somebody said, “Spend big and win now.”

Suggests is the wrong word. Somebody said it.

Did the Carolina Panthers pay too much for left tackle Matt Kalil? Kalil’s problem with the Minnesota Vikings was never about effort or talent. It was about his inability to stay healthy. When healthy, he is the left tackle the Panthers require and crave.

Kalil is 27. His brother, center Ryan Kalil, is one of the best players the Panthers have ever had. He turns 32 this month.

Michael Oher played left tackle for Carolina until he was concussed early last season. Oher, 30, was coming off two poor seasons when the Panthers signed him in 2015. He was solid in 2015. He’ll be a fine right tackle if he comes back.

The Panthers addressed almost every need in free agency. This frees them to take a running back with the eighth pick in the draft. As I reluctantly wrote last week, I don’t think they will.

Only once in franchise history have the Panthers selected a running back as high as eighth, and that was Tim Biakabutuka in 1996, Carolina’s second draft. Here’s how long ago 1996 was: Northwestern played in the Rose Bowl, the Cleveland Browns fired Bill Belichick and Connecticut did not win the NCAA women’s basketball championship.

Treating free agency as a high-dollar opportunity to get well was out of character for Carolina. Selecting a running back with the eighth pick in the 2017 draft would be even more out of character.

Tom Sorensen is a retired Charlotte Observer columnist. Sign up for his newsletter, and follow him on Twitter: @tomsorensen

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