April 11, 2014

Panthers sign former St. Augustine's DE Alex Hall

After one big year in Canada, Alex Hall is coming back to North Carolina.

The former standout at Raleigh's St. Augustine's College signed with the Panthers on Friday afternoon after spending the past two seasons in the Canadian Football Leauge. 

Hall, 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds, finished second in the CFL last season with 16 sacks for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Tied for St. Augustine's all-time lead in career sacks, Hall was drafted by the Browns in the seventh round of the 2008 draft. He played in 32 NFL games between 2008-2010 for the Browns and Giants.

Hall will come in and compete with Wes Horton and Frank Alexander for backup roles at defensive end. Mario Addison is the team's primary backup behind Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy.

--Jonathan Jones


Posted by Observer Sports on April 11, 2014 at 04:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (17)

April 10, 2014

Panthers sign TE Ed Dickson to one-year deal

Without a true No. 1 receiver and with no guarantee they'll get one in next month's draft, the Panthers are expected to play more two-tight end sets in 2014.

They took an important step in that direction Thursday by acquiring another pass-catching tight end.

The Panthers signed former Baltimore tight end Ed Dickson to a one-year contract, the team announced. Dickson, 26, agreed to a veteran minimum deal worth $795,000, including a $65,000 signing bonus, according to a league source.

Dickson started 14 games last season after the Ravens lost starting tight end Dennis Pitta to a hip injury for much of the year. Dickson had 25 receptions for 272 yards and one touchdown, and was victimized by several dropped passes at the beginning of the season.

But the former third-round pick from Oregon has shown he's capable of being a consistent receiving threat. In 2011 during his second season, Dickson pulled down 54 passes for 528 yards and five touchdowns.

Dickson, who is 6-4 and 244 pounds with good speed, will try to win the No. 2 job behind Greg Olsen, who is coming off the two most prolific receiving seasons by a Panthers tight end.

"Ed is a young player who has shown he is a capable blocker as well as receiver in the league," Panthers coach Ron Rivera said in a release. "He provides experienced depth at the tight end position, and we look forward to having him in the mix."

Despite his issues with drops last season, Dickson is known more as a receiving tight end. In fact, the football analytics site Pro Football Focus ranked Dickson as the league's worst blocking tight end in 2013.

The Panthers also re-signed tight end/fullback Richie Brockel this offseason, and brought in free agent tight end Mike McNeill, who was a blocking specialist in St. Louis.

Ben Hartsock, another blocking tight end, is an unrestricted free agent.

--Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on April 10, 2014 at 02:51 PM | Permalink | Comments (32)

April 09, 2014

2014 Panthers preseason schedule released

The Carolina Panthers will play an all-AFC slate in this year's preseason.

Carolina will host the Bills and Chiefs while traveling to the Patriots and Steelers in August.

Only one date is set for the Panthers this preseason. Carolina will host Kansas City at 8 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 17 at Bank of America Stadium in a nationally televised game on FOX.

That's the second game of the preseason. Carolina will host Buffalo between Aug. 8-10. The team will travel to New England to face the Pats between Aug. 22-24.

The third preseason game is the one in which teams typically play their starters the longest, and a game against the Patriots should be a good barometer for the 2014 Panthers. Last year, Ron Rivera opted to keep Cam Newton in the game through three quarters against the Ravens in the third preseason game.

The Panthers will wrap up the preseason with an away trip to Pittsburgh some time between Aug. 28-30. Carolina and Pittsburgh will meet in the final preseason game for the 12th consecutive time, and the two squads will face each other again in the regular season when Pittsburgh comes to Charlotte.

An NFL spokesman said on Twitter earlier Wednesday there is no timetable yet for the release of the regular season schedule. In the past, the schedule has been released in late April.

--Jonathan Jones

Posted by Observer Sports on April 9, 2014 at 03:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)

April 08, 2014

Panthers agree to terms with DT Colin Cole

The Panthers are rebuilding their secondary and receiving corps. But the defensive front seven - the team's strength during the 12-win season in 2013 -- will return intact.

Defensive tackle Colin Cole, who started 13 games for the Panthers last season after being out of football for two years due to injury, has agreed to terms on a one-year contract with Carolina, a league source said Tuesday.

Cole and defensive end Greg Hardy were the only members of the starting front seven eligible for free agency. Hardy signed a franchise tender last month that guarantees him $13.1 million this season.

And while Cole's deal will be worth considerably less -- likely a slight bump from his $840,000 salary in 2013 -- the 6-2, 335-pound nose tackle was a valuable piece of the league's second-ranked defense last season.

Cole stepped into the starting lineup after injuries to Dwan Edwards and played 31 percent of the defensive snaps, helping keep blockers off linebackers Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis.

--Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on April 8, 2014 at 05:26 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

Panthers WRs old vs. new: A statistical comparison

In explaining how the Panthers would try to replace leading receiver Steve Smith, coach Ron Rivera said the Panthers wouldn't necessarily try to find a No. 1 receiver.

Instead, they would look to replace the 10 catches a game their four wide receivers -- all of whom are now gone -- combined for in 2013.

With the acquisition of free agent wideout Jason Avant on Monday, the Panthers are getting closer to Rivera's goal of 10. But they're not there, yet.

Avant and the two other recently signed wideouts -- Jerricho Cotchery and Tiquan Underwood -- combined for 7.25 receptions a game last season.

None of the Panthers' new receivers is considered a true No. 1 wideout -- and their numbers from a year ago reflect that.

Cotchery averaged 2.88 catches a game for Pittsburgh, although he had a career-high 10 touchdown catches.

Avant pulled down 2.38 receptions per game in Chip Kelly's system in Philadelphia, while Underwood -- the fastest of the three -- averaged 2.0 catches a game in Tampa Bay.

Domenik Hixon, the Panthers' No. 4 receiver last season, caught only seven passes all season.

If the Panthers take a receiver high in the draft -- or see Marvin McNutt or Tavarres King develop -- it's not unreasonable to suggest they could find someone to catch another 2-3 passes a game.

If that happens -- and Cotchery, Underwood and Avant stay healthy and come close to matching their 2013 numbers -- the Panthers could find their way to 10 catches a game.

But without a true No. 1 receiver -- like Avant had in Philly in DeSean Jackson, Cotchery had in Antonio Brown, and Underwood had in Vincent Jackson -- one of those receivers is going to draw extra coverage.

The bottom line, the Panthers have brought in a proven group of complementary receivers, all of whom are said to be high-character guys who will help in the locker room and with the development of the young wideouts.

On statistics alone, it's hard to argue that Cotchery-Avant-Underwood is a better receiving lineup than Smith-Brandon LaFell-Ted Ginn Jr. 


The stats are below. Click for a larger image.


Posted by Observer Sports on April 8, 2014 at 01:32 PM | Permalink | Comments (53)

April 07, 2014

Panthers sign Jason Avant

Slowly but surely, the Carolina Panthers are rebuilding their depleted wide receiver corps.

The Panthers have signed free agent wideout Jason Avant to a one-year contract, the team announced Monday. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Avant becomes the third free agent receiver to sign with the Panthers, joining former Steelers red-zone specialist Jerricho Cotchery and ex-Tampa Bay wideout Tiquan Underwood.

The Panthers cut franchise receiving leader Steve Smith last month and saw three other receivers -- Brandon LaFell, Ted Ginn Jr. and Domenik Hixon -- leave in free agency.

And while they still don't have a true No. 1 receiver -- Panthers coach Ron Rivera says they don't necessarily need one -- they picked up a sure-handed, possession receiver in Avant, who spent his first eight seasons in Philadelphia.

Avant, who turns 31 in two weeks, was cut last month in a move that saved the Eagles more than $3 million in salary cap space. Avant, Philadelphia's fourth-round pick from Michigan in 2006, ranks 11th in Eagles history with 297 catches for 3,646 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Avant had three consecutive seasons with at least 50 catches from 2010-2012. His productivity slipped a bit in Eagles coach Chip Kelly's system last season, when Avant pulled down 38 catches for 447 yards and two touchdowns.

“We are happy to have Jason with the Panthers,” Rivera said in a release. “He provides a versatile player at receiver and brings good size as well as experience to the position.”

Avant was one of two free agents who were at Bank of America Stadium on Monday.

The Panthers continue to talk with former Atlanta Falcons free safety Thomas DeCoud, although the two sides do not have an agreement in place, according to a source.

--Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on April 7, 2014 at 06:33 PM | Permalink | Comments (28)

April 03, 2014

DeCoud visit further clouds Godfrey's future

The Panthers are bringing in free agent safety Thomas DeCoud for a visit next week, creating more questions about free safety Charles Godfrey's future in Charlotte.

A league source confirmed DeCoud's trip to Carolina, which was first reported by NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

DeCoud, 29, was a starter for five seasons in Atlanta before the Falcons released him last month in a cost-cutting move. DeCoud, a third-round pick out of Cal in 2008, went to the Pro Bowl after the 2012 season.

But he struggled last year, finishing with a career-low 44 tackles and failing to make an interception for the first time since becoming a starter.

DeCoud, who was set to make $4.2 million this year in Atlanta, would become the second safety to join the Panthers from an NFC South rival. Former New Orleans strong safety Roman Harper signed a two-year deal with Carolina last month.

DeCoud, who recently visited Detroit, can play both safety spots.

The Panthers have been non-committal about Godfrey, who is coming off Achilles surgery and has a $7.1 million cap figure for 2014.

General manager Dave Gettleman said last week Godfrey is "part of the evaluation," adding that Godfrey first had to get healthy.

--Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on April 3, 2014 at 02:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (16)

April 02, 2014

Agent: Cam Newton recovering well from surgery


The agent for Cam Newton said the Panthers' quarterback is recovering well following surgery on his left ankle two weeks ago.

"He's doing fine," agent Bus Cook said Wednesday after South Carolina's pro day. "I mean, Cam's a big, strong, tough kid. So he'll be fine."

Newton underwent surgery March 19 in Charlotte to have the ankle ligaments tightened. He is expected to miss all of the Panthers' organized team activities this spring but should be back for training camp at the end of July.

Cook also represents Gamecocks defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who worked out Wednesday in front of representatives from 30 of the 32 teams and more than 120 credential media members.

Cook said he wasn't surprised to hear the Panthers plan to use the fifth-year club option on Newton for the 2015 season. General manager Dave Gettleman said last week the Panthers would use the option, which must be exercised by May 3.

The move would guarantee Newton a salary of $14.7 million for 2015, although the two sides could continue to work on a long-term extension after the option is picked up.

The new collective bargaining agreement limited the guaranteed money first-round picks received in their initial, four-year contracts, and gave clubs control of the fifth year, as well. Newton signed a four-year deal worth a guaranteed $22 million after the Panthers drafted him first overall in 2011.

Cook said he expected most teams to use the 2015 option on the first-round picks from 2011.

"There are a few that won't do it. But I suspect most of the teams will," Cook said. "It'll still give you time to work on another deal if that's the case. If they don't use it, they lose it. But if they do use it, then it just buys more time.

"So either way. But I strongly feel that they'll pretty much exercise that option."

--Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on April 2, 2014 at 02:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)

March 31, 2014

Panthers hire John Ramsdell as offensive assistant

The Panthers have hired longtime NFL assistant coach John Ramsdell to serve as a senior offensive assistant.

Ramsdell fills the vacancy created when former offensive quality control coach Lance Taylor left to take a position at Stanford.

Ramsdell, 59, worked with Philip Rivers as San Diego's quarterbacks coach from 2006-2012 when Panthers coach Ron Rivera was a Chargers assistant.

Ramsdell spent 11 years in St. Louis in a variety of offensive roles from 1995-2005 -- a stretch that included the Ram's Super Bowl season of 1999 with an offense dubbed the 'Greatest Show on Turf.'

--Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on March 31, 2014 at 11:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (11)

March 28, 2014

Should Panthers go after DeSean Jackson?

The Panthers need a No. 1 wide receiver.

There's a good, young one now available following the Eagles' decision to release DeSean Jackson today.

But as was mentioned here last week, the Panthers had little interest in acquiring Jackson in a trade. And that was before this week's revelations in a report by NJ.com that Jackson has ties to two L.A. gang members who have been connected to two homicides since 2010.

The Panthers cut Steve Smith, the franchise's all-time leading receiver and one of their most popular players, in part because general manager Dave Gettleman viewed him as a distraction and didn't want him to negatively impact the team's young receivers.

The two wideouts the Panthers signed last week -- Jerricho Cotchery and Tiquan Underwood -- were praised by former coaches at the league meetings this week for being players of good character.

"He's not low-maintenance," Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin said of Cotchery, the former Steeler. "He's no-maintenance."

Gettleman said Cotchery and Underwood were signed in part because of their reputations as being good locker room guys.

"We have created a winning culture downstairs and we want to keep that, and improve upon it. And that was important. That's part of it. It's part of the decision all the time," Gettleman said. "Because very frankly, you have to count on the guy showing up everyday and working hard everyday. If you can't count on that, what's the point?"

NJ.com also reported the Eagles had concerns about Jackson's attitude, his inconsistent work ethic, missed meetings and a lack of chemistry with coach Chip Kelly.

Gettleman said every move he makes sends a message to the locker room.

What kind of message would it send if the Panthers sign a player with a diva reputation and known gang ties whom the Eagles just jettisoned after one of his best seasons (82 receptions for 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns)?

Someone will take a chance on Jackson, who likely will have to take a one- or two-year deal at a discounted price.

But don't expect it to be the Panthers.

--Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on March 28, 2014 at 01:44 PM | Permalink | Comments (40)