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February 28, 2014

Panthers will use franchise tag on DE Greg Hardy

The Panthers will use the franchise tag on defensive end Greg Hardy, according to a team source and multiple reports.

Hardy was slated to be an unrestricted free agent on March 11. The tag will keep Hardy a Panther through the 2014 season at a price expected to be close to $13 million.

According to a source, the tag will give the Panthers the ability to work with Hardy and his agent on a long-term deal with the team.

Hardy, who the Panthers drafted in the sixth round of the 2010 draft, tied a team record with 15 sacks in 2013. He had 11 sacks in 2012.

SportsIllustrated.com recently ranked Hardy as the No. 1 potential free agent in the NFL.

The Panthers now have 18 players set to become unrestricted free agents on March 11.

--Jonathan Jones

Posted by Observer Sports on February 28, 2014 at 04:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (12)

Panthers sign K Graham Gano to 4-year deal

The Panthers believe they have finally found a replacement for John Kasay.

The team announced Friday it signed kicker Graham Gano to a four-year deal. Gano was set to become a free agent in less than two weeks. The deal is reportedly worth $12.4 million.

Gano went 24-of-27 on field goals in 2013. His six field goals of 50 yards or more set a franchise record and tied the NFL high for 2013. Gano was also a force off the tee as 77.8 percent of his kickoffs were touchbacks.

"The special teams unit was a large part of our success last year and we are excited to keep Graham as a part of our team,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said in a statement. “Graham has shown range and accuracy in his field goal kicking, and his strong leg has been a weapon for us on kickoffs.”

He joined the team midway through the 2012 season and signed a two-year deal worth $1.33 million. Gano came to Carolina after the Panthers cut Justin Medlock.

Gano is already the second longest-tenured kicker in Panthers history. Kasay kicked for 15 years for the Panthers--save for a 2002 injury--but since his release following the 2010 season, the Panthers have struggled to replace him. Olindo Mare kicked for the Panthers in 2011 and then lost the job to Medlock in training camp the following year.

Carolina now has 19 players set to become unrestricted free agents on March 11.

--Jonathan Jones

Posted by Observer Sports on February 28, 2014 at 10:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (8)

February 27, 2014

Combine profile: Penn State WR Allen Robinson

Name: Allen Robinson

Position: Wide receiver

Height/weight: 6-2/220

School/Class: Penn State/Junior

Projected round: 2nd

Career highlights: Set a school record in receiving yards with 1,013 in his junior season, a mark that prompted him to leave school early, especially after coach Bill O’Brien went to the pros. He was named a third-team All-American.

Did you know?: Robinson is from Detroit. He said Michigan didn’t try to recruit him out of high school and Michigan State wanted him as a defensive back.

Quotes: “That’s (draft depth at WR) not something I can really focus on too much. I just try to go in every day and every workout to improve my game. The depth, it is what it is. That’s something that’s out of my control. I really don’t try to focus on that too much.

"I compare myself to a receiver like Reggie Wayne. We have a similar body type. He’s a pretty good route runner, as well. So that’s kind of who I’d compare myself to. It’s kind of hard to say. That’s something I really don’t try to focus in on, outside of what my coaches and family have to say.”

Panthers’ level of interest: In other drafts, Robinson would be a first-rounder. But this draft is so deep, especially at receiver, that I don’t see Robinson—maybe the fifth-best receiver—going in the first round. With a 4.6 40, Robinson may have dropped himself into the second round. It’s possible, but unlikely, he’s there for Carolina in the second round. But if he is, he’d be a find there and the Panthers should pounce.

--Jonathan Jones

Posted by Observer Sports on February 27, 2014 at 11:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Combine profile: San Diego State RB Adam Muema

Name: Adam Muema

Position: Running back

Height/weight: 5-10/202

School/Class: San Diego State/Redshirt junior

Projected round: 7th-undrafted

Career highlights: He had back-to-back seasons of 1,200-plus rushing yards, including a career-high 1,458 yards during his redshirt sophomore campaign. He was named honorable mention All-MAC this past season and totaled 31 touchdowns in his final two years.

Did you know?: Muema accepted an invitation to the combine but left before running back drills. Muema, who by the looks of his Twitter is deeply religious, said that, after speaking to God, if he left the combine then, he would be drafted by the Seattle Seahawks. Since then, friends and former coaches have not been able to get in touch with Muema.

Quotes: "Can't go wrong with God," Muema told the San Diego Union-Tribune. "(God) told me to sit down, be quiet, and enjoy the peace.”


Panthers’ level of interest: None. It’s clear it’s boom or bust for Muema with the Seahawks.

--Jonathan Jones

Posted by Observer Sports on February 27, 2014 at 11:17 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Combine profile: Auburn DE Dee Ford

Name: Dee Ford

Position: Defensive end

Height/weight: 6-2/252

School/Class: Auburn/Senior

Projected round: 1st

Career highlights: Sacked Jameis Winston twice in the BCS title game, which Auburn lost in the closing seconds. A first-team All-SEC defender, Ford wowed at the Senior Bowl.

Did you know?: A day after Ford ripped Jadeveon Clowney (see below), he was medically scratched from the combine due to a 2011 surgery on his lower back.

Quotes: "I'm better. Let's put it like this. People like to talk about size all the time. Size is pretty much overrated in my eyes," Ford said. "You can look at guys like Robert Mathis, Elvis Dumervil, Von Miller. These are 6-2 guys and under. People are just looking at the fact that he's a physical specimen. Honestly if you watch the film, he plays like a blind dog in a meat market basically.

"I play with a lot of technique. I watch a lot of film. These are the things I do and it shows up."

Panthers’ level of interest: In the event he falls to 28th, and in the event the Panthers do not retain Greg Hardy, and in the event they decide against picking a tackle in the first round, Ford would need to put on about 25 pounds before he’s considered a legitimate NFL defensive end. His acceleration vaults him to the top of the draft board, but he would struggle going against a 6-foot-5, 320-pound tackle at the pro level with his current frame. 

--Jonathan Jones

Posted by Observer Sports on February 27, 2014 at 11:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Combine profile: Alabama FS HaHa Clinton-Dix

Name: HaHa Clinton-Dix

Position: Free safety

Height/weight: 6-1/208

School/Class: Alabama/Junior

Projected round: 1st

Career highlights: Started nine games in his junior year and was a second-team All-American. He tallied a team-high five interceptions in his sophomore year.

Did you know?: HaHa said at the combine the worst thing about his last name is “the whole President Clinton thing with Monica Lewinsky.” His grandmother started calling him HaHa when he was 3 because Ha’Sean was too difficult for those outside the family to pronounce.

Quotes: "I'm one of the best safeties in the draft because I played in Saban's system, I feel like I'm prepared for the next level and I'm willing to take that challenge." 

Panthers’ level of interest: Clinton-Dix could fall to No. 28, but that’s unlikely. He showed great ball skills in college, but you’d want your free safety to run faster than 4.58 in the 40. Ultimately, Gettleman and his staff demonstrated this past season that they can get help in the defensive backfield through undrafted free agency and small, short-term contracts with veterans. 

--Jonathan Jones

Posted by Observer Sports on February 27, 2014 at 10:27 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Greg Olsen talks post-Combine attitude

Carolina Panthers TE Greg Olsen joins CineSport's Noah Coslov to talk about what he went through immediately after the '07 NFL Combine and what players must keep in mind now that the 2014 Combine is over.

Posted by Observer staff on February 27, 2014 at 10:12 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 26, 2014

Steve Smith 'surprised' by Gettleman's quotes, Panthers' evaluations ongoing

Steve Smith didn’t want to talk about his future Wednesday because he was at Jordan Gross’ retirement press conference to talk about his long-time teammate.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera didn’t have much to say about Smith’s future because the team is still going through its evaluation process.

While Smith’s career in Carolina is still unclear, it is clear the team is trying to figure out how big of a role, if any, the most tenured Panther will play for the team in 2014.

“We’ve got a lot to go through. A lot of things have changed,” Rivera said, referring to Gross’ retirement. “We’ve got free agency that’s coming up that we’ve got to look at as well. There’s a lot of things that are really going to be there that are really going to make some things tough for us. How big a role he has for us is to be determined. We’ve got a lot of things to decide.”

The Panthers have not formally discussed Smith’s role with the receiver since general manager Dave Gettleman addressed the media at the NFL combine. There, he said “none of us are here forever.”

Rivera said he expects the evaluation process to continue through early next week.

In an interview with WBT Radio, Smith said he was “surprised” by what he heard from Gettleman and Rivera last week in Indianapolis.

“I would have wished that I would have been afforded the opportunity been given a heads up by our GM and coach Rivera when I did my exit meeting,” Smith said. “No one spoke to me about it, in that manner. The unfortunate part of it was I had to hear it second-hand; I didn’t get to hear it behind closed doors or face-to-face. I heard it through third party or through the internet. That part, to be honest and transparent, is a little discouraging.”

Should the Panthers cut Smith, they would owe him about $5 million in guaranteed money and would take a $2 million cap hit.

Smith caught 64 passes for 745 yards and four touchdowns in 2013. His 11.6 yards per reception was his lowest since 2007.

--Jonathan Jones

Posted by Observer Sports on February 26, 2014 at 03:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (44)

Video of Ryan Kalil leading chorus of 'Happy Trails' for retiring lineman Jordan Gross

The video you've waited to see.

Posted by Observer Sports on February 26, 2014 at 02:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Combine profile: Lindenwood CB Pierre Desir

Name: Pierre Desir

Position: Cornerback

Height/weight: 6-1/198

School/Class: Lindenwood/Redshirt Senior

Projected round: 4th

Career highlights: A first-team Little All-American, that title is about as much as you could hope for as a player at a school like Lindenwood. He had 13 interceptions in his final two seasons there.

Did you know?: He left Washburn after three years so he could be closer to home to help raise his two children with his wife. He didn’t get a scholarship to Lindenwood, though, and had to work while he went to school to pay his way.

Quotes: "Watching Richard Sherman and the other bigger corners has helped me, it helps scouts look at me in a different light to see that I’m a guy with range and that I can be one of the great big corners in the future.” 

Panthers’ level of interest: A popular name in the mid rounds, Desir performed well at the Senior Bowl and had one of the best broad jumps (133 inches) of the cornerbacks at the combine. His 4.59-40 time would ideally be better, but his height and long arms (33 inches) compensate for a few hundredths of a second. You’ll hear his name thrown around some by draftniks as a hipster-cool darkhorse, but make no mistake, Desir can play. 

--Jonathan Jones

Posted by Observer Sports on February 26, 2014 at 11:44 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)