First, let’s address Antoine Cason’s tenure with the Carolina Panthers, who joined the Panthers this offseason on a one-year contract. This season was very much hit and miss for the cornerback but had many more misses than hits. Pro Football Focus gave him an overall rating of -10.2 which currently ranks 67th out of 73 cornerbacks who have played 50% of the snaps.
He has struggled as of late and was even benched in two of the past four games (New Orleans, Minnesota). Opposing quarterbacks had a QB rating of 122.2 when they threw at him in coverage. If the Panthers didn’t release him now, it was almost a certainty that he would not be back in Charlotte in 2015.
However with the release the Panthers don’t have a cornerback with much NFL experience. The player with the most seniority is James Dockery at four years but he has played only a handful of snaps the past few weeks. I believe the move was made more so to open up playing time for rookie Bene Benwikere, who returned to the field last week from an ankle injury.
This is going to be a great opportunity for the rookie to stake his claim to the starting spot opposite Josh Norman. If he performs well over the final four weeks of the season, the front office has to feel much more confident about this position heading into the offseason.
Benwikere isn’t the only rookie who looks to benefit from this move. The Panthers are planning on bringing up undrafted rookie Carrington Byndom from the practice squad to replace Cason, according to Joe Person of The Charlotte Observer.
Byndom is one player Panthers fans may not know much about but is someone who has a great deal of potential. The undrafted rookie saw a lot of playing time while at the University of Texas, playing in 51 games and started every game the last three years he was at the school. He was also named to the All-Big 12 team in two of those seasons (2011 and 2013).
The rookie won’t have much time to ease into NFL life though as they will face arguably their toughest test for the remainder of the season on Sunday when they have to go up against Drew Brees.
At the end of the day, with the season already a lost cause, this was the right move for the Panthers future. The team now has four games to evaluate their rookies which will help their decision in the offseason about what to do with this secondary.