1. Find a No. 2 receiver
The Panthers released wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson earlier this off-season and need to find a way to replace his 70 receptions, 815 receiving yards and four touchdown catches.
The primary candidates to start at the No. 2 receiver spot opposite All-Pro Steve Smith are Drew Carter and Dwayne Jarrett. Carter is a third-year pro with outstanding straightaway speed (he's clocked faster than Smith in the 40), while Jarrett is a second-round pick out of Southern Cal who comes to Carolina with an impressive college resume that includes 41 touchdown grabs in three seasons. Jarrett is probably the odds-on favorite to win the job, but will need to work on getting off the line of scrimmage. Right now Carter is still working with the first team and his NFL experience may give him a slight edge at least early in the season.
Keary Colbert, a 15-game starter in 2004, is also in the mix but the coaching staff appeared to lose faith in his ability long after the fan base did, declaring him inactive the last month of the season. There's a chance he might not even make the team. Fourth-round pick Ryne Robinson will see action as the slot receiver on certain plays and the team also feels Taye Biddle has a strong upside.
2. Settle on a starting five up front
What we know for sure is Jordan Gross will move back to right tackle (after being forced to move to left tackle when Wharton went down in Week 1 last year with a torn ACL) and Mike Wahle will return at left guard.
But other than that, things are up in the air.
Wharton is expected to start at left tackle, but hasn't practiced since last September. Jeremy Bridges, who started 14 games at right tackle last year, is sliding over to right guard and currently working with the first team, although that could change. Hartwig is the starting center, but the team drafted center Ryan Kalil in the second round. Interior lineman Geoff Hangartner, who started 15 games at center last year, is likely to wind up on the bench giving the team some solid depth. Mathis, who started at right guard last season, is working on a possible switch to tackle where he could back up along with Rashad Butler.
3. Determine need for another safety
The Panthers did little to upgrade one of the team's glaring needs entering the off-season. They know Mike Minter, 33, is retiring after this season and the other starter is inexperienced Nate Salley, a fourth-round pick in 2006 who was cut last year in training camp but was later re-signed and played in a handful of games. The team did not re-sign Colin Branch or Shaun Williams, who split time at free safety last year.
Salley worked in minicamp as the starter with journeyman Deke Cooper the top backup. The Panthers only spent one draft pick on a safety, that being C.J. Wilson in the seventh round. Carolina passed on going after free agent Donovin Darius, but will continue to monitor the waiver wire in hopes of landing a veteran safety who could potentially come in and start at free safety.
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