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March 31, 2007

Oddsmakers not impressed by Panthers

Swung by Las Vegas on the way back from the NFL meeting in Phoenix. The Final Four, obviously, is dominating the sports scene out here. But I checked out the NFL odds at Ballly's Sports Book and saw that the oddsmakers think the same way about what the Panthers did last season and in the offseason as their fans.

The Panthers, who were a Super Bowl favorite last year, are viewed as a middle-of-the-pack team in 2007. Back in January, they opened as a 25 to 1 favorite to get to this year's Super Bowl. After a quiet offseason, their odds have dropped to 28 to 1.

The Patriots (7 to 2), Chargers (4 to 1) Colts (5 to 1), Bears (8 to 1) and Ravens (8 to 1) are the favorites to win the Super Bowl.

Carolina's odds to win the NFC Championhip Game are 15 to 1. The Bears (4 to 1), Saints (5 to 1) and Seahawks (5 to 1) are the favorites to win the NFC Championship Game.

Now, back to basketball.

Posted by Observer Sports on March 31, 2007 at 11:23 PM | Permalink | Comments (45)

March 29, 2007

Carr taking unique free agency approach

   PHOENIX – A few observations and leftover items at the conclusion of the NFL’s annual meeting:

  •     Indications out of David Carr’s camp is that the quarterback is considering a unique approach to free agency. There are potential starting jobs in Oakland, Cleveland and Detroit and it’s possible Carr could end up in any of those cities. The money would likely be pretty good. But here’s where Carr’s thinking has changed after talking to a lot of people he trusts in the last few days.   It’s not just about the money or the chance to be an immediate starter. Carr, who spent five years getting beat up in Houston, is starting to think the best thing for his career might be to go to a good team, spend some time as the backup and wait for his shot.  That’s why Carolina and Seattle could be attractive situations and the interest from both teams isn’t just cursory. The Panthers and Seahawks are very interested in Carr.  And don’t let all the earlier talk about Carolina’s salary cap woes fool you. There’s now more than enough room for the Panthers to make a strong offer to Carr when he visits early next week.  As of Thursday, the Panthers have about $9.5 million in cap space.
  •     It’s rare that coach John Fox says more than we can fit in the newspaper, but that was the case Wednesday as he chatted with The Observer at the NFC coach’s breakfast.  You’ve probably already read about the stories about the switch to zone blocking on offense, Fox’s admission that the team probably will draft a punt returner and some other items.   But there were a few other things we couldn’t squeeze into the paper. Fox, who doesn’t admit much during the regular season, admitted the Panthers will look for middle linebacker depth in the draft. He said the Panthers have lots of confidence in Adam Seward as a backup to Dan Morgan. But Fox said last year’s injury to Morgan showed the importance of depth in the middle of the defense.   Fox also talked extensively about tight ends and sounded like that position can be addressed in the draft. Fox made it sound like the Panthers aren’t looking for one tight end to do it all. They want to get three or four tight ends with different skill sets and substitute them into the situations that make the most sense.
  •     Panthers owner Jerry Richardson rarely does interviews. But he spent an hour with The Observer and the results of that will be in the newspaper in the next few days. Can’t give it away here, but Richardson touched on a bunch of different subjects. A few promos: Why he’s comfortable letting Morgan back on the field after a series of concussions, his explanation of why the Panthers have been quiet in free agency and his thoughts on the team’s ability to sign stars Julius Peppers, Steve Smith and Jordan Gross to new contracts.

Posted by Observer Sports on March 29, 2007 at 12:04 PM | Permalink | Comments (58)

March 27, 2007

Panthers' prospect signs with Jets

PHOENIX - As expected, former Miami defensive end David Bowens agreed to a three-year contract with the New York Jets on Tuesday night.

The Panthers had some talks with Bowens' agent, but never made an offer. The Panthers will have to continue to look for depth behind starters Julius Peppers and Mike Rucker in the remainder of free agency and the college draft.

Posted by Observer Sports on March 27, 2007 at 07:59 PM | Permalink | Comments (17)

Bonus checks for Panthers

PHOENIX – Eight Panthers have received bonus checks for more than $100,000 as part of the NFL’s Performance Based Pay System. As already mentioned in this blog, center Geoff Hangartner got the biggest check of the Panthers and the third-largest in the NFL. Here’s a complete look at the breakdown of how the $2.84 million was divided among the Panthers. These numbers do not count toward the salary cap:

Geoff Hangartner $259,536

Evan Mathis $175,587

Michael Gaines $172,168

Shaun Williams $165,191

Richard Marshall $148,266

Na’il Diggs $128,201

Adam Seward $106,659

James Anderson $102,434

Will Montgomery $97,530

Jeremy Bridges $93,781

Chris Draft $87,238

Drew Carter $69,984

Colin Branch $65,329

Brad Hoover $53,864

Christian Morton $49,950

Mike Minter $49,668

Thomas Davis $49,131

Chris Gamble $49,022

Vinny Ciurciu $46,401

Karl Hankton $43,581

Keyshawn Johnson $40,996

Kevin McCadam $40,707

Kindal Moorehead $39,853

Todd Fordham $39,598

DeAngelo Williams $39,478

Kris Mangum $38,409

Jeff King $38,374

Nick Goings $34,632

Damione Lewis $33,496

Al Wallace $31,670

Ma’ake Kemoeatu $30,707

Keary Colbert $30,343

Nate Salley $28,740

Dion Byrum $27,096

Jordan Gross $26,119

Reggie Howard $22,197

Kris Jenkins $20,926

Jason Baker $20,484

Brandon Jamison $19,801

Steve Smith $19,027

Mike Wahle $17,453

Jake Delhomme $17,254

Jason Kyle $17,166

Taye Biddle $17,004

DeShaun Foster $16,259

Ken Lucas $15,170

Eric Shelton $14,809

Chris Weinke $14,436

Mike Rucker $12,574

Stanley McClover $12,393

Julius Peppers $9,205

Mike Seidman $8,348

Derrick Strait $8,317

John Kasay $6,265

Brett Basanez $4,484

Jordan Carstens $3,997

Justin Hartwig $3,272

Travelle Wharton $3,050

Tony Brown $1,115

Dan Morgan $410

Posted by Observer Sports on March 27, 2007 at 06:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (12)

No in-helmet audio for defense

PHOENIX - Couple of news items from the NFL's annual meeting.

First, the Panthers won't have to worry about the coach-to-defensive-player communication system written about in this blog a few days ago. At least not this year. League owners voted down the proposal to use the radio system for defensive players. Twenty-two teams voted for it and 10 against it. That's a lot closer to passage than last year when the vote was 18-14. The teams that voted against it still are concerned about some technical issues that will be addressed before another proposal is put forward next year.

Second, owners voted to make instant replay permanent. That vote also means that each team will have to spend about $300,000 to update its replay equipment to high-definition technology before the start of the year.

Third, owners approved a window for Super Bowl assistant head coaches to have a second interview the week before the Super Bowl.

Fourth, Panthers center Geoff Hangartner cleaned up in the league's Performance Based Pay System, which rewards players with relatively low salaries who get a lot of playing time. Hangartner received a check for $259,536, the third-highest total in the NFL.

Posted by Observer Sports on March 27, 2007 at 04:43 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

New access policy good for media, fans

   Some very encouraging news for fans (and the media) out of the Pro Football Writers of America meeting this morning. The NFL is expected to approve a new media policy in the next few days that will make players and assistant coaches more accessible.

   There still could be some tweaks to the final policy, but it appears as if the new rules will require all players to speak to the media at least once during the week and after every game during the regular season. The proposal also calls for coordinators to be available at least once every two weeks and other assistant coaches to grant “reasonable access’’.

   The Panthers haven’t had a media situation as difficult as some other teams (the Patriots and Broncos pop quickly to mind) in recent years, but the new policies would be a big positive.

   Coach John Fox declared his assistants off limits last season and that made it difficult for fans to get any insight from any coaches other than Fox. If approved, the new policy will put defensive coordinator Mike Trgovac, who always was brutally honest before last year’s gag order, and new offensive coordinator Jeff Davidson more in the spotlight. The rest of the coaches also will be more available and answers will be more than, “It is what it is’’.

   Editor's note: Pat Yasinskas is the NFC South Division representative for the PFWA.

Posted by Observer Sports on March 27, 2007 at 01:42 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Spikes, Holcomb not quite what Panthers need

     PHOENIX – As the trade of Buffalo linebacker Takeo Spikes and backup quarterback Kelly Holcomb for Philadelphia defensive tackle Darwin Walker and a 2008 draft pick was going down Monday, there was buzz around the NFL’s annual meeting the Carolina Panthers were in the mix.

   That’s not really accurate. But it’s not entirely untrue.

   The Panthers, at very least, were in contact with the agents for Spikes and Holcomb, according to league sources. They were testing the waters, but not jumping in.

   They had some moderate interest in Spikes. But he didn’t truly fit the profile of what they’re looking for. They want a middle linebacker who can be an alternative to the often-injured Dan Morgan. Spikes is viewed as a true outside linebacker, although he can play the middle in a pinch.

   Holcomb, who will turn 34 in July, also didn’t quite fit the profile. He’s a career backup with a fair amount of experience. The Panthers want someone with experience behind Jake Delhomme. But they also want someone with upside, something Holcomb doesn’t have.

   Spikes and Holcomb came close to what the Panthers want, but not close enough. Coach John Fox and Marty Hurney like to say they like to bring in the right players at the right time at the right price. In the eyes of Fox and Hurney, there was nothing wrong with Spikes and Holcomb, but there was nothing really right.

Posted by Observer Sports on March 27, 2007 at 12:47 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

March 26, 2007

Minter, Rucker deals show Panthers' heart

   PHOENIX – In a league that’s often heartless, the Carolina Panthers are showing a lot of sentiment this spring.

   In the cases of veteran safety Mike Minter and defensive end Mike Rucker, the Panthers are bucking a trend they’ve followed in the past and a trend that’s been the norm in the league for years. Minter and Rucker aren’t going the way of Brentson Buckner and Wesley Walls – expensive veterans, who were released for salary cap reasons.

   Minter and Rucker are sticking around for one could be a final season for each of them after recently restructuring their contracts. These weren’t simple restructures, where up-front bonus money is traded for base salary to create salary cap room. These were significant pay cuts.

   Give the Panthers credit for showing humanity with two of the more popular players in franchise history. Keeping Minter and Rucker around may help with community relations and their veteran presence only helps the locker room. But the pay cuts are a pretty strong sign the Panthers expect playing time for Minter and Rucker to decrease. Safety and defensive end will be looked at hard in the draft as the Panthers try to get younger at both positions.


The right stuff?

Add Anthony Wright to the list of potential backup quarterbacks for the Panthers. His agent has had some talks with the Panthers, who aren’t exactly jumping up and down to make a move for the eight-year veteran from South Carolina. Wright and Joey Harrington (and maybe others) are on Carolina’s radar.

   But the Panthers are in no big rush to make a move and may wait for the trickle-down effect from other teams making trades and other moves at quarterback. Wright, who has played for Pittsburgh, Dallas, Baltimore and Cincinnati, also is drawing interest from the Atlanta Falcons, who also have been talking to former Tampa Bay backup Tim Rattay.

Posted by Observer Sports on March 26, 2007 at 12:32 PM | Permalink | Comments (32)

March 25, 2007

Notes from the NFL meetings

PHOENIX – Some random notes and observations with the annual NFL meetings to start Monday:

Don’t count on the Panthers making a move for a backup quarterback anytime soon. They’re going to wait and see how things sort out elsewhere and you might not see a move until right around draft time in late April. The one available veteran that’s on the radar right now is Joey Harrington. There’s interest on both parts. But, as previously reported, Harrington’s on his honeymoon. This part of Harrington’s honeymoon itinerary hasn’t been reported previously: He’s in Africa and is expected to be there a few more weeks.

Although the meeting doesn’t officially start until Monday, most owners, coaches and team officials arrived either Saturday or Sunday. Panthers coach John Fox was seen getting ready to head out to the golf course Sunday afternoon.

As Fox loaded his golf clubs into his trunk at the valet parking station of the Arizona Biltmore, he was recognized by a few hotel guests. But, one in particular, had no idea who Fox was. "That guy looks like Archie Bunker," a woman said to her chuckling husband as they walked by Fox.

Saw the most unbelievable "For Sale" sign driving through the residential neighborhood that leads into the Biltmore. There was a pretty nice house with a sign advertising it. The price? $20 million.

Posted by Observer Sports on March 25, 2007 at 05:49 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 22, 2007

Texans' Carr to Panthers unlikely

    Memo to the David Carr Fan Club:

   Don’t get your hopes too high on the possibility of Carr landing with the Panthers. Yeah, the Houston quarterback is on the trading block right now. But don’t look for the Panthers, or any other team, to want to give up very much for a guy that didn’t have much success in five seasons with the Texans and still is carrying two years of a big contract.

   Unless there’s a trade where Carr agrees to re-work his contract significantly, there probably won’t be a trade. A source close to Carr said it’s more likely the Texans simply will release the quarterback in a few days.

   That same source says Carolina’s not real high on Carr’s wish list because the presence of Jake Delhomme means the Panthers already have a starter in place. Carr, who played behind a brutal offensive line in Houston, is eyeing Minnesota, where the offensive line is very good and he’d have a chance to start right away.

   Oakland is next on Carr’s list because the job is open and Carr and new Raiders coach Lane Kiffin once roomed together while Carr was in college at Fresno State and Kiffin was a graduate assistant.

   What all this means is the Panthers likely will continue to play the waiting game as the quarterback carousel plays out. Marques Tuiasosopo, who visited the Panthers but wasn’t a prime target, landed with the Jets for a one-year, minimum-salary contract Thursday. Joey Harrington is still on the radar. But there could be more pieces to this puzzle. Guys like Carr and Trent Green are going to land somewhere and there will be a trickle-down effect that could free up Carolina’s next backup quarterback.

Posted by Observer Sports on March 22, 2007 at 01:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (25)