Plenty of NFC teams have been busy this off-season and the Carolina Panthers were no exception. For a team that finished 11-5 last season and earned a wild-card berth, the Panthers entered the offseason with plenty of holes on their roster. Additionally, the team had openings at defensive coordinator, general manager, and team owner. Despite a lot of the key players returning, this is a new look football team in Carolina. Let’s take a look at the Carolina Panthers best off-season moves.
The Carolina Panthers Best Off-Season Moves
Honorable Mention: Jerry Richardson selling the franchise to David Tepper
The Carolina Panthers were in a weird position this offseason after reports that former owner and franchise founder Jerry Richardson was accused of sexual misconduct in the workplace last December. When the NFL declared that it was taking over the investigation, Richardson announced that he planned on selling the team at the season’s end. Plenty of potential buyers emerged including names such as rapper Sean “Diddy” Combs, NBA superstar Stephen Curry and Nascar driver Jimmy Johnson. However, very few of these individuals and groups had the proper capital or experience running an NFL franchise.
Instead, Richardson sold the team to Pittsburgh Steelers minority owner David Tepper in May for $2.2 billion. Tepper is the founder of the global hedge fund firm Appaloosa Management. According to Forbes, Tepper has a net worth of $11 billion. Tepper vows to keep the team in Charlotte and will push for the team to get a new stadium in the Queen City. Not only that, he intends to bring the ‘Steeler Way’ to the organization which is a positive thing.
5. Trading Daryl Worley for Wide Receiver Torrey Smith
When news of the trade first broke, it seemed a little surprising that the Panthers offered a starting cornerback for Torrey Smith after the Philadephia Eagles had intentions of releasing the veteran receiver. However, a month later Daryl Worley was arrested for the illegal possession of a weapon, driving under the influence and resisting arrest. Worley was eventually released by the Eagles.
Even if the Worley arrest never took place, the trade was still a positive one for the Panthers. The Panthers lost Ted Ginn in the off-season prior and his absence on the team showed. Ginn had some of the best years of his career posting a career-best 15.3 yards per reception in his three-year stint with the team.
No one on the Panthers roster last year averaged more than 15 yards per reception and tight end Ed Dickson finished the year with the highest average of 14.6. (Kelvin Benjamin finished with 14.8 but was traded halfway through the season). Quarterback Cam Newton averaged a career-low 6.7 yards per pass attempt in 2017. Smith has a career average of 16.4 yards per reception and he should drastically help Newton and the deep passing game in 2018.
4. Signing Defensive Tackle Dontari Poe
Early on in the offseason, the Panthers lost defensive tackle Star Lotulelei to the Buffalo Bills. Since being drafted in 2013, Lotulelei has started all but 4 games for the Panthers and was a big reason Ron Rivera‘s defense was so stout against the run. Replacing him was not going to be easy but Carolina did it with Dontari Poe.
The seven-year veteran has been a dominant force for both the Kansas City Chiefs and the Atlanta Falcons. He has been solid against the run game and is a better interior pass rusher than Lotutelei. Throughout their respective careers, Poe has 15.5 career sacks to Lotulelei’s 11.5. Not to mention, Poe also has three career offensive touchdowns and has the versatility to be in various offensive goal line sets. Poe was also signed at a cheaper price than Lotulelei so it was a win-win situation for the Panthers.
3. Hiring Norv Turner as the Offensive Coordinator
Believe it or not, Newton still has a lot of room for growth. That is one of the main reasons why the Panthers decided to bring in Norv Turner as the offensive coordinator this year. The previous coordinator Mike Shula had plenty of mixed results while running the show. Shula had a top 10 offense in both 2013 and 2015 but finished in the bottom of the league every other year during his tenure.
Turner, on the other hand, is considered a quarterback guru and has 26 years of coaching under his belt. From Troy Aikman to Philip Rivers to most recently Teddy Bridgewater and Case Keenum, Turner has brought the best out of his quarterback no matter who they are. Luckily for him, he gets to work with one of the most talented quarterbacks in the NFL.
Turner has come out and said he wants to improve Newton’s decision making and get him up to mid-to-high 60s in completion percentage. Newton’s career completion percentage sits at 58.5%. If Turner can get him to mid-60s next season, that would be remarkable.
2. Signing Running Back C.J. Anderson
In order to save some cap space, the Panthers decided to part ways with longtime running back Jonathan Stewart. Stewart finished 2017 with a respectable 680 yards and six touchdowns. However, he just turned 31 and Carolina could not afford to overpay him. Releasing him created a hole at the position because even with Christian McCaffrey on the roster, Stewart got far more carries than McCaffrey did.
The Panthers needed a between the tackles physical runner and found one late in the offseason in C.J. Anderson. Anderson has been a solid running back during his five years in Denver and had a career year in 2017. He rushed for a career-high 1,007 yards, three touchdowns and started all 16 games for the first time in his career. And at $1.75 million for one year, the Panthers got Anderson on an extremely good deal. He and McCaffrey should make for a solid 1-2 punch in the backfield alongside Newton.
1. Drafting Wide Receiver DJ Moore
The Panthers have struggled to find a true number one receiver since the release of Steve Smith. Since Smith’s release, only one receiver has finished with more than 70 receptions and no receiver has led the team in receptions. But according to Smith himself, that all could change thanks to the Panthers first-round draft pick DJ Moore.
Moore was an exciting player to watch at the University of Maryland. Unfortunately for him, he was the only thing exciting at that program. Maryland went through a carousel of quarterbacks during Moore’s three years so he did not put up stellar numbers. However, when you watch the tape you know he is special. He caught 121 passes and 14 touchdowns from seven different quarterbacks in his final two seasons.
Moore had a fantastic workout at the NFL Combine and he was ranked by many analysts as the best receiver in this year’s draft class. Luckily for the Panthers, he was still on the board at the 24th selection. After the Panthers drafted Moore, Smith – who is now an analyst on NFL Network – proclaimed that he loved the selection and that Moore will be able to fill the void that he himself left in Carolina. Moore has yet to play an NFL snap, but it would be a wise decision to listen to Smith, and that is why this is the Panthers top rated move this off-season.
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