Which Players Should the Panthers Re-sign?

The Carolina Panthers have 11 players who will be unrestricted free agent once the market opens in March. Find out which players they should bring back in 2015 with new contracts.

Greg Hardy. DE

The biggest name in this group is the one player who played the least in 2014. Defensive end Hardy played Week 1 against the Tampa Bay Bucs however did not see the field the rest of the season after agreeing to be placed on the Exempt List. Hardy was convicted of domestic violence last July but Hardy appealed the conviction and will have a jury trial on February 9th.

The Panthers may be hesitant to offer any type of long-term contract to Hardy considering the defensive end earned $13.1 million dollars this past season after Carolina used the franchise tag on him. This one-year contract is why Hardy will be a free agent in March.

General Manager Dave Gettleman will have a tough decision ahead of him due to the off the field issues with Hardy. However, one scenario that could make sense for both sides would be another one-year deal. Right now, Hardy’s value could not be lower considering he is dealing with off the field issues and didn’t play almost the entire 2014 season. If Hardy was willing to play on a one-year deal it would allow the defensive end to prove he is still a difference maker on defense.

The 26-year old seems to be on board with this considering he told Josh Norman he would “play for free”. This technically isn’t allowed considering the NFL has minimum salaries but a smaller salary on a one-year deal would make sense for the Panthers. They would have time to evaluate Hardy and still give them the ability to pursue a few other free agents.

Decision: Bring back on a one-year deal


Byron Bell, LT

The left tackle experiment with Byron Bell did not go well for the Panthers, or Cam Newton for that matter. The Panthers decided at the start of this year to move Bell from right tackle, where he started in 2013 to the left side. By season’s end, Bell was the second worst offensive tackle according to Pro Football Focus. He gave up 11 sacks, which was the second highest total in the NFL and was one higher than his total at right tackle in 2013.

The offensive line improve tremendously with the additions of Andrew Norwell, Trai Turner and Mike Remmers to the starting lineup. The left tackle position with Bell starting seemed to hold this group back. Addressing this position should be priority number one for the front office this offseason. The team has given a Bell an opportunity at both tackle positions the past two years and at this point it looks like it is time to move on.

Decision: Don’t re-sign


Dwan Edwards/Colin Cole, DT

One of the Panthers’ strengths on the defensive line was the depth at defensive tackle. Veterans Dwan Edwards and Colin Cole played important roles down the stretch, especially when Star Lotulelei had to miss time due to injuries.

The concern with both these players is the fact that they are getting up there in age and there could be a question of how much is left in the tank. Cole (34 years old) and Edwards (33 years old) were actually the two oldest players on the roster this past season. If the front office can find a way to work out one-year deals with both players near the veteran minimum it would be a smart low-risk, high-reward type move.

Decision: Bring back on one-year deals


Chase Blackburn, LB

The veteran linebacker saw his playing time drop significantly this year before being place on injured reserve at the end of October. After starting seven games for the Panthers in 2013, Blackburn only started three games in 2014 however one of those starts he only played one snap. He actually played 5 or less snaps in three of his six games this past season. At 31 years of age and with Blackburn coming off an injury, it doesn’t seem to make sense for the Panthers to bring him back.

Decision: Don’t re-sign


Joe Webb, QB/WR

A player like Joe Webb would not seem to be a high priority signing however this is one that the front office should try and get done early. The reason a player like Webb is so important is because his versatility. He can play special teams, wide receiver and is the team’s third/emergency quarterback. A player like this allows the Panthers to open up roster spots at other positions and give them depth elsewhere.

Decision: Bring Back


Ed Dickson, TE

The former Baltimore Raven joined the Panthers before the 2014 season and spent the season as Greg Olsen’s backup. It wasn’t until later in the season that Dickson started to become more involved in the offense with the Panthers’ using more two tight end sets. He only had 13 receptions on the year but six of them came in the final four games of the year. He also caught his only touchdown of the year in Week 17 against the Atlanta Falcons. At only 27 years of age, Dickson would be a great depth signing for the Panthers with the potential of an increased role in 2015.

Decision: Bring Back


Remaining Free Agents

The remaining four players who will be free agents (Kevin Matthews, Garry Williams, James Dockery and Chris Scott) should all be considered depth players. None of these four players saw any time as a starter in 2014 and it is hard to imagine there role expanding any in 2015. The positive for these players is that they are all relatively young and have spent time in the Panthers’ system. At the very least, the Panthers should offer contracts to all these players and get time this offseason in mini-camps and training camp to evaluate them a little more.

Decision: Bring Back

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