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March 12, 2014

NFC South teams, except the Panthers, make free-agency splashes

If you’re a Panthers fan, Tuesday was a day where seemingly everyone in the NFC South got better and Carolina stayed the same.

New Orleans, Atlanta and Tampa Bay all made headlines for their multi-million dollar contracts to multiple free agents while the biggest news out of Charlotte was the non-event regarding Steve Smith, the loss of a starting safety and the retirement of two more offensive linemen.

A “cap-challenged” Carolina squad didn’t make any splashes on the first day of free agency in the 2014 NFL league year. And though it’s difficult to grade or project signings around the division, it appears all three teams upgraded.

In New Orleans, the Saints found money in the mattress for safety Jairus Byrd, the top safety on the market. The Saints, who weren’t believed to be players in splash free agency due to their cap woes, gave Byrd a six-year, $54 million contract to anchor the defensive backfield along with emerging young safety Kenny Vaccaro.

But a closer look at the Saints shows the team lost Malcolm Jenkins in free agency (Philadelphia) and allowed Roman Harper to walk, as well. The team is also trying to trade Darren Sproles, an explosive and versatile running back/returner whose best days, the Saints are betting on, are behind him. They also let receiver Lance Moore walk and offensive tackle Zach Strief is testing the free-agent waters. All of this coming after the team tagged tight end Jimmy Graham for this season.

Atlanta re-signed defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux to a three-year deal while picking up fellow defensive tackle Paul Soliai for a five-year, $33 million deal and defensive end Tyson Jackson for five years and $25 million.

The team also re-signed its center while adding offensive guard Jon Asamoah to what was last year one of the worst offensive lines in football. The Falcons will also have a healthy Julio Jones back next season, and general manager Thomas Dimitroff—one of the most respected GMs when it comes to the draft—has the No. 6 selection in May’s draft. Of course, they still have a hole to fill with the retirement of Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez.

Finally, in Tampa, where a coaching staff change to Lovie Smith immediately made the Bucs a contender, the Bucs signed cornerback Alterraun Verner to a $25.5 million deal, according to reports. The signing strengthens an already-strong secondary, but it also signals the end of Darrelle Revis in Tampa.

The team also signed defensive end Michael Johnson to a reported five-year, $43 million deal while also nabbing defensive tackle Clinton McDonald and tight end Brandon Myers. Smith still isn’t saying Mike Glennon is the quarterback of the future for the Bucs, though, and the team may draft a quarterback with the No. 7 pick.

All of this, and crickets from the Panthers. Just like last year when the team didn’t sign a free agent until Day Three in cornerback Drayton Florence.

It’s not a mistake that Dave Gettleman is waiting for the market to settle down before he hops in. With about $7 million in cap space and holes to fill in the wide receiving corps and the offensive line, Gettleman will likely target those areas in the coming days while bargain shopping.

--Jonathan Jones

Posted by Observer Sports on March 12, 2014 at 11:07 AM | Permalink


Release the Kraken!!!

Posted by: The Kraken | Mar 12, 2014 9:42:32 AM

Hakeem Nicks, Sidney Rice/ Lance Moore/ Miles Austin, Antione Cason, and Asante Samuel should be would we get in free agency. 2 WR's and 2 DB's.

Draft: 1st round WR Marquise Lee, 2nd round CB Jean Baptiste

Posted by: Big Rob | Mar 12, 2014 9:47:05 AM

Is Florence back with us next season? He played well last year.

Posted by: HoggMolly | Mar 12, 2014 9:48:32 AM

The Panthers might have peaked this past year. You have to figure the Falcons can't be as bad as they were last year and the Saints are still the class of the division. And you have to figure Cam isn't going to improve much more with regard to his passing accuracy. At this point, he probably is what he is.

With an offensive line to rebuild, a defensive backfield to rebuild, and a desperate search for a new #1 wide receiver, the Panthers don't have enough draft picks to plug all those holes. Expectations will be high next year. Expect a lot of disappointment from the fanbase.

On the plus-side, at least it will be easier to get to the stadium's upper levels. Thanks Charlotte taxpayers!

Posted by: archie | Mar 12, 2014 11:24:24 AM

Not concerned at this point about these moves by other NFC East teams. The Saints lost alot of players from last year, so they have not really gotten any better. Atlanta didn't have much depth and talent to begin with (besides their receivers) and are especially weak on their lines. I think Tampa has improved themselves so far. If Panthers do nothing aside from current moves, then maybe some concern is warranted. But there is time yet to do things before camp.

Posted by: PantherD | Mar 12, 2014 11:26:39 AM

The Panthers ARE the class of the division until someone takes the division championship away from us. Gettleman is using the same formula for success as he did last year. Stop the whining and ice up. smh...

Posted by: deepenwide | Mar 12, 2014 11:45:53 AM

Gettleman will get it done. No worries. I will say adding Mile Austin, Nicks and resigning Ginn would be a major lift. Release Lafell, make a sound decision on Smith, keep him if he's willing to take a pay cut which I doubt. Other holes to fill can be picked up throughout the year.

Posted by: Panther Pride | Mar 12, 2014 12:20:26 PM

Nothing to worry about as of now let them mantle their moves I see plenty of we on the market we can snatch up

Posted by: Teedog | Mar 12, 2014 12:35:31 PM

Look at the teams roster. It has been gutted by one year contracts and free agency. Smith was treated like he was yesterdays newspaper. The offensive line and wide receiving corps at this point are non-existent. There is time to rebuild but not with one year contracts. The Panthers could plummet to the bottom of the NFC South in one season due to cap restraints and loss of talent that may or may not be recovered. The treatment of Smitty leaves a bad impression of the Panthers front office to include Gettleman and Rivera. What goes around comes around? Nothing ventured...nothing gained.

Posted by: Whitecomet77 | Mar 12, 2014 2:25:19 PM


Posted by: ROB | Mar 14, 2014 3:03:13 AM

we love CAM for a (QB) but only thing he need to approved on bring the ball down for the first down and look for the man for the first down I no he what the big play but some time the big play is getting first down to and throwing the long ball when he's open. And he don't have any body open throw the ball a way.

Posted by: rob | Mar 14, 2014 6:32:12 PM

I must say I'm a bit upset with the moves an decision's the panthers organisation has made as a long time panther fan I'm from Fayetteville NC B/R an smith has always been that dude u could count on to help get it done he also was like a big brother to some of the younger dudes on the team I believe the panthers GM an head coach Rivera have the best in all they do an will do for the panthers but by our cap being low /in a wrking progress I wonder what they plan to do for the team I mean how are we going to step up 2014 season when we to busy stepping down / always losing somebody lol we will see

Posted by: Anthony | Mar 14, 2014 8:43:36 PM

It's time to get that cap fixed so we for a change can one day get some big upgrades in WR/CB/OL BIG NAMES 2014/2015???

Posted by: Anthony | Mar 14, 2014 8:48:21 PM

Panthers made a mistake with huge contracts for Stewart and Williams. That's why there is no money to spend on impact players to contribute right away. They have to use the draft and sign the minimum wage for rookies and veterans. With Gross retiring. I just don't see a winning season for 2015.

Posted by: peter | Mar 14, 2014 11:38:34 PM


Posted by: joe | Mar 21, 2014 1:13:30 AM

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