Along with the offensive line, the Panthers are also faced with the prospect of major changes in the secondary this season. Three of the four players who started the season last year for Carolina are gone, including cornerbacks Reggie Howard and Terry Cousin and free safety Deon Grant.
The Panthers have signed cornerback Artrell Hawkins and while the team is saying he has a chance to compete for the starting job, sources inside the team say they could still attempt to sign another free agent corner like Mario Edwards or Bobby Taylor to start alongside last year's rookie standout Ricky Manning Jr.
Beckett had spent his first three seasons with the San Diego Chargers before joining the Cincinnati Bengals prior to last season. He started nine games last season for the Bengals at free safety and registered 81 tackles with three sacks and two interceptions.
If he signs, Beckett would most likely start at free safety for the Panthers, although he would certainly receive competition from last year's fourth-round draft pick Colin Branch and Travares Tillman, who joined Carolina midway through the 2003 season.
The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Beckett has four sacks and four interceptions in his career.
NOTES, QUOTES, ANECDOTES
--The Panthers signed free-agent offensive lineman Adam Meadows from the Indianapolis Colts to a five-year contract worth about $3 million per season. A seven-year veteran, Meadows started 96 games in seven seasons with the Colts, but started only five last year after losing his job in the preseason.
--The Rams have decided to match Carolina's offer to restricted free agent tight end Brandon Manumaleuna. That means the Panthers may consider re-signing Jermaine Wiggins or pursue a blocking tight end in the NFL draft.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Todd has done everything we've asked of him. He's a true professional. This is just one of those tough decisions you have to make in today's system." -- Panthers GM Marty Hurney on the decision to release LT Todd Steussie.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
NEEDS/DRAFT PRIORITIES: 1. Cornerback. The Panthers have added Artrell Hawkins, but may not be done here and expected to add either a veteran corner like or take a rookie high in the draft. Don't rule out the Panthers trading for a corner either. 2. Wide receiver. The Panthers would like to add a speed receiver and this may be a position they address in the draft. 3. Free safety. The Panthers lost Deon Grant but may still look to sign free agent Rogers Beckett from Cincinnati or look for a replacement in the draft.