Panthers Keep Options Open at No. 1

Could the Panthers attempt to trade down from the No. 1 spot in the NFL draft? It's possible. Even though Panthers owner Jerry Richardson announced shortly after the season in a press conference that the team wouldn't be trading the pick, that is no longer a certainty given Andrew Luck's decision to stay at Stanford.

Andrew Luck's decision was a devastating blow for the Panthers who desperately need stability at the quarterback position. Most scouts believe Luck was a once-in-a-decade quarterback who would have solidified any team for the next 10 to 15 years.

"In 2002, we were sitting there at No. 2 and Julius Peppers was on the board and there was a quarterback on the board (Joey Harrington) and several other good players and we didn't get a phone call," general manager Marty Hurney said. "I think in the past it has been difficult to trade the top pick, so we'll just see.

"I think the tact that you take is you always keep an open mind on everything and you never rule anything out and you proceed with a lot of different scenarios. Then when it comes time, you hope you choose the right one."

The rookie salary cap and exactly what happens with the collective bargaining agreement could impact how many inquiries the Panthers get from other teams.

As for Luck's decision, Hurney said the Panthers never approached it as a sure thing when he stayed at Stanford.

"I don't know whether surprise is the right word," Hurney said of Luck staying in school. "I can't say that. It was a decision that was made. When you do what we do, you never assume anything. Looking into the future and assuming something is going to happen isn't what we do.

"The way we approach it is, until he declared one way or another it wasn't anything that was done. When he declared he was going to stay in school, we knew it was one less option we would have."

Jimmy Clausen went 1-9 as the team's starter last year with nine interceptions and only three touchdown passes.

But make no doubt about it, the Panthers would have drafted Luck, even though they took Clausen in the second round last year.

As of right now, Hurney said there are about five to eight players the Panthers would consider with the No. 1 pick, although he said that list will narrow as the evaluation process proceeds.

Among those expected to garner consideration are defensive tackle Nick Fairley and quarterback Cam Newton from Auburn, wide receiver A.J. Green from Georgia, cornerback Patrick Peterson from LSU and defensive end Da'Quan Bowers from Clemson.


WR Dwayne Jarrett
Chuck Burton/AP
--Wide receiver Dwayne Jarrett and running back Eric Shelton were two second-round busts and the jury is still out on defensive end Everette Brown, whom the team gave up a first-round pick to acquire.

"That's the nature of this business," general manager Marty Hurney said. "There's that old saying that winning cures everything, and all that means is when you win, everybody looks at the good decisions. And when you lose, people tend to look at the mistakes and that is just the nature of what we do.

"When we're 2-14, people are going to look at the misses. We do feel like we have a very good core of young players, most of whom we've assembled through the draft. We've drafted to our philosophy and the makeup of our football team and I think we've got a large number of players who will help us down the road. But saying that doesn't mean anything. You have to win football games to prove that. Words don't mean anything. Wins do. I understand that."

--The Panthers have the first pick in every round except the second, which they traded away last year for the rights to draft Appalachian State's Armanti Edwards. Edwards, of course, barely saw the field last year after falling out of favor with coach John Fox.

But Hurney is confident that with a new regime Edwards will get another shot and be a contributor.

"The things that we saw to lead us to draft Armanti where we did and to do what we did to get him are the same things we saw as the season progressed," Hurney said. "He's somebody with very good physical skills and has good hands. He has good speed and good quickness and is an explosive player, especially with the ball in his hands. What we learned this year is he's very smart.

"He knew all three receiver positions. Hopefully that can translate into him being a contributor. But it's all going to take place on the field. It's impossible to say who is going to get on the field as far as any position goes. You hope you have a new coaching staff out there and the players will determine themselves who plays and for how much."

--Arizona kicker Jay Feely prompted a bit of an uproar with his appearance on ESPN 1050's "The Michael Kay Show," when the NFLPA player rep said Panthers owner Jerry Richardson was lashing out at players during a meeting between owners and players.

"When you bring in emotion, then you get in the way of logic," Feely said. "When Jerry Richardson, the owner of the Carolina Panthers, is their lead negotiator for the owners, and he's going to criticize Peyton Manning and Drew Brees and their intelligence in our meeting on Saturday. And sit there and say dismissively of Peyton Manning, 'Do I need to help you read a revenue chart son, do I need to help break that down for you, because I don't know if you understand how to read that.'

"That doesn't go anywhere in trying to help us get a deal done."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think our philosophy is to build through the draft and complement through free agency. I think you keep with that philosophy. But with that said you never stay hard and fast with anything. If there is a right fit that comes up and someone you think will help your football team then I think you do it." -- GM Marty Hurney.


It's possible the Panthers might use the franchise tag on running back DeAngelo Williams or defensive end Charles Johnson. They have until Feb. 24 to do so.

"It's a possibility," general manager Marty Hurney said. "It is something we will have to decide. But you have to realize our coaching staff is probably going to be together for the first time this week, so we'll start hashing through things. There are some options there. There are some ideas about how to use it if we do use it all. But I can tell you there hasn't been a final decision yet."

The team could also use the transition tag, although league sources said it would have to be on someone with at least six years experience.

For those hoping the Panthers break the bank in free agency and go after a host of high-priced free agents, you need to first study this team's history and remember that has never been Hurney's preference.

That said, he's always been one to keep his options open.


Once the new CBA is in place, the Panthers plan to work toward re-signing five players whose contracts are set to expire: running back DeAngelo Williams, center Ryan Kalil, defensive end Charles Johnson and linebackers Thomas Davis and James Anderson.

Williams' contract could be the trickiest as the Panthers know it will take big money to re-sign him and that they have other solid backs waiting in the wings in Jonathan Stewart and Mike Goodson.

Williams is a candidate for the franchise tag, as are Johnson and Kalil.

The Panthers are confident they will re-sign Johnson, Kalil and Davis, but the jury is out on Williams and Anderson.

Cornerback Richard Marshall told reporters late in the season the Panthers don't want him back and he plans to hit the free-agent market.

The Panthers have a decision to make on quarterback Matt Moore, whose contract is also up. In all likelihood the Panthers are going to bring in a veteran to compete for the starting job so Moore could be out of luck, even though he's said he wants to return.


1. Quarterback: Even general manager Marty Hurney admits finding stability at the quarterback position is the team's most pressing need. Jimmy Clausen was 1-9 as a starter last season and had just three touchdown passes in those games. The Panthers planned to take Andrew Luck of Stanford with the No. 1 pick in the draft, but he decided to stay in school. Auburn's Cam Newton is a possibility for the Panthers, but might be a stretch at No. 1 given his raw skills. He's more of an option if the team were to trade down. Look for the Panthers to solidify this position either in the free-agent market or via trade.

2. Defensive tackle: The Panthers finished up with Derek Landri and Nick Hayden as their starting defensive tackles last season and former defensive line coach Brian Baker admitted the team desperately needs to upgrade here. Auburn's Nick Fairley seems to be the likely pick for the Panthers at No. 1 if everything checks out.

3. Tight end: In switching to an offense similar to that of the San Diego Chargers, the Panthers have made it pretty clear they need to upgrade at tight end. The Chargers have Antonio Gates, while the Panthers have Dante Rosario, Jeff King and Gary Barnidge. Each of those three have skills, but the Panthers want a guy who can do it all. Look for them to find that guy in free agency or via trade.

4. Cornerback: The Panthers could lose Richard Marshall in free agency - he has said the team informed his agent he won't be asked to come back next year - which means cornerback is a major issue. Marshall started last year alongside Chris Gamble before Gamble was benched for walking out of a team meeting. Captain Munnerlyn is a solid nickel back but not someone you want to count on as an every-down starter. LSU's Patrick Peterson is an option at No. 1, but the Panthers may look for veteran help here.

5. Right guard: The Panthers took a step back last season on the line largely because they couldn't find a suitable right guard. The injury to Jeff Otah forced Geoff Schwartz to move to right tackle and forced Mackenzy Bernadeau to start. Eventually Bernadeau was benched and Schwartz moved inside to guard and Garry Williams started at right tackle. If Otah can come back healthy maybe Schwartz can be the regular starter, but it wouldn't hurt for the Panthers to find a mid-level guard in free agency on the cheap.

MEDICAL WATCH: No updates.

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