Carolina Panthers free agency 2018: Top 5 targets

Carolina Panthers, NFL Free Agency, NFL Offseason

After reaching the playoffs in 2017, the Carolina Panthers are hoping to contend for the Super Bowl once more behind a solid roster.

The Panthers are an interesting team. They are married to Cam Newton, which gives this franchise a level of unpredictability and instability to go along with big play production and a very high variance in the positive column. They are also in the process of selling the team, so there is much uncertainty at the top of this franchise.

The defense is far more structured and stable. The Panthers have a very definitive approach on this side of the ball. However, Carolina blitzed much more in 2017 and played a little more man-to-man coverage. But that was with Steve Wilks as the defensive coordinator and of course Wilks is now the head coach in Arizona. It is probably still safe to say that the Panthers will live on getting pressure with their front four and rely on elite linebacker play while patching things together in the defensive backfield. It has worked very well in the past.

The Panthers do not have a pick in the fourth round, but they do have two third rounders, including the pick Carolina got in the Kelvin Benjamin deal from Buffalo. Carolina does have some money to spend in free agency, but also could use help in a lot of different areas and have some tough decisions to make with their own free agents.

5. Brandon Fusco

The Panthers already have big money invested in Trai Turner; so retaining Andrew Norwell will be very difficult. Norwell will most likely be the highest paid guard on the free agent market, which probably means he is soon to become the highest paid guard in NFL history. But the Panthers offensive line needs work. There are some big name players here and there isn’t one massive glaring weakness, but overall, this unit underperformed in 2017.

The Kalil brothers are also making a ton of money and might not be around much longer. Carolina could conceivably put the franchise tag on Norwell, but is he really worth that kind of money and is it financially prudent to have so much tied up in a pair of starting guards?

Daryl Williams has become an excellent starter at right tackle and maybe the Panthers should bump last year’s second round pick, Taylor Moton, to left guard where Norwell has resided. Amini Silatolu also is a free agency and Carolina should look for further reinforcements up front in this draft. In the meantime, signing Fusco at far less than what Norwell will cost could act as a nice stopgap solution.

Actually, Fusco, who is coming off a very solid season in San Francisco in which he logged over 1,000 snaps, might be the answer for next few years as he is only 28-years-old. Allowing Norwell to walk also could pay off a year from now in terms of compensatory draft picks.

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