The Carolina Panthers were the surprise team of the 2013 NFL campaign, when they won the NFC South with a record of 12-4. Though they did not win a playoff game after that, they have a bright future ahead of them. However, there are, of course, some holes left on the depth chart, and with the free agency starting two weeks from now, they have a chance to fill them.
The most noticeable need is another wide receiver opposite Steve Smith, but the Panthers should target offensive linemen and secondary players as well. Here are five soon-to-be free agents they could aim at.
Two premier Seattle Seahawks will be free agents by March 11th: defensive end Michael Bennett and wide receiver Golden Tate. Bennett is a must-sign for Pete Carroll‘s team and they will do everything they can to sign him again. There might not be enough money left to bring back Tate as well, though. And this could be the chance for the Panthers. Tate is an under-the-radar receiver who has never reached the 1,000-yard receiving mark in his four-year career. Nevertheless, the 25-year-old was a viable option for quarterback Russell Wilson. Last season he amassed 898 yards and five touchdowns, while also having success in the return game. He would be relatively inexpensive, so the Panthers should think about targeting him in free agency.
Hakeem Nicks‘ tenure in New York was a remarkable one, but it seems that it will come to an end in two weeks. According to an insider of the team, the chance of bringing him back is „close to zero“. With 56 receptions and 896 yards his 2013 season was solid, though. However, he did not score a single touchdown. The question is, can you blame him for that? The Giants were a miserable team overall last year. Additionally, he had two solid and two great seasons before. There are still a few good years left in his tank as well.
The Chiefs franchise tagged offensive tackle Branden Albert last offseason, but it looks like he could hit the market this free agency. Kansas City drafted Eric Fisher with the first overall pick in last year‘s draft, and they most likely want to utilize him properly from now on. If Albert is available, he will be one of the most popular free agents, so the Panthers would have to spend a lot of money for him. A guy like him, who was ranked as the 11th best tackle in pass blocking by ProFootballFocus, would immediately improve an offensive line that was good, but sometimes shaky, in the 2013 season.
The secondary of the Panthers took a huge step ahead last year and improved from a bad to a promising and above-average group, which was further strengthened by the elite play of the defensive line and linebacker core. They could use some adjustments, though, especially with the best player, Captain Munnerlyn, becoming a free agent. Alterraun Verner would be an ideal fit. The 25-year-old went to his first pro bowl last year, after amassing a total of 57 tackles and five interceptions. He indicated a few times that he wants out of Tennessee, so there is also a great chance that he‘ll hit the market. The Panthers should target him for sure, if they don‘t sign Munnerlyn.
One of the most underrated free agents to date is wide receiver Jeremy Maclin. The Philadelphia Eagle suffered a torn ACL during training camp and was forced to miss the entire regular season. Because of this, the Panthers could get him cheap. His talent is undoubtedly convincing and with his explosiveness he came close to the 1,000-yard receiving mark several times in his four seasons he played in the NFL. If he can come back and play at this form, he would help the Panthers offense enormously.