Free Agent Forecast: Who's Coming Back?

The Carolina Panthers face tough decisions this offseason regarding their in-house free agents. In particular, there are nine key players who do not have contracts beyond this year. We look at those players and analyze what the Panthers will do.

QB Matt Moore

Moore's season was cut short by injury. It seemed doomed from the start, though, when the front office failed to bring in a veteran receiver to play alongside Steve Smith. The Panthers will most likely have the first overall pick in the draft, and as long as he declares, they should be drafting Andrew Luck.

With Jimmy Clausen not likely to be moved, it seems unlikely that they'd keep Moore. Hopefully, they realize the error of their ways and bring in a veteran with game experience to mentor the young quarterbacks.

RB DeAngelo Williams

The fifth-year running back will be 28 the next time he plays a game. He is a fan favorite and one of the most dangerous weapons on the team. However, his season was cut short by injury and that gave Mike Goodson an opportunity to shine.

Alongside Jonathan Stewart, Goodson has been a bright spot in an otherwise dreary season. In a league in which unwanted and underpaid players like LeGarrette Blount and Danny Woodhead can be just as successful, why would a rebuilding franchise shell out big money to Williams? Sure it would give the Panthers one of the strongest running back stables in the league, but that money could be used to fill other holes.

C Ryan Kalil

Re-signing Kalil is a must. With all of the holes this team has, having an asset like Kalil already on the roster seems like finding treasure. It would be a disaster to let him go.

TEs Jeff King, Dante Rosario

TE Dante Rosario
Scott Cunningham/Getty
This one is interesting. King's touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals aside, he is the run blocker and Rosario is the one with the hands. There aren't many tight ends out there that do both well, but they are out there. If the Panthers can find one in the draft or free agency, why pay two to do the job of one?

DE Charles Johnson

The man tasked with filling Julius Peppers' shoes has done so admirably. Johnson's 9½ sacks leads the team and has certainly earned him a pay increase. He may get a lot of money thrown at him by a desperate team, but is there a more desperate team than the Panthers?

This decision may come down to what type of defense the new coach wants to run and if the Panthers will throw a little more money at Johnson than they think he's worth. There is something to be said about continuity and team chemistry and keeping Johnson may help both.

LBs Thomas Davis, James Anderson

Again, this decision may come down to the defensive scheme the new coach wants to run, but the Panthers' linebacker corps is certainly a strength. Davis' injury history aside, he takes this defense to another level when healthy. Given that he will have more than a full year to heal his freak knee injury, he should return to form in 2011. Anderson leads the team in tackles, and given everyone returns healthy, would give the Panthers one of the deepest linebacking units in the league.

CB Richard Marshall

Like Williams and Johnson, another team will most likely offer Marshall more money than the Panthers are willing to spend. They've been burned before by overspending on a cornerback and it isn't likely to happen again. Marshall is inconsistent and it wouldn't behoove the Panthers to get locked into a big-money contract simply to have a warm body.

Will the Panthers re-sign Charles Johnson? Discuss inside the message boards.

Michael Stolp is a graduate of Wilkes University with a degree in Communications. He grew up in Piscataway, N.J., and recently relocated to Charlotte, NC. To follow his personal blog, click here.

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