Inside Slant

Except for trying to extend the contract of wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad, the Panthers have surprisingly very few concerns this offseason despite failing to make the playoffs. <br><br> Remember, this was a team that lost several of its star players off the Super Bowl team from a year ago.

So along with getting many of their star players like Steve Smith, DeShaun Foster, Kris Jenkins and hopefully Stephen Davis back from injury, the Panthers return a whole bunch of guys who have gained a year of experience through their absence.

Most notably, the Panthers have learned more about running back Nick Goings, defensive tackles Kindal Moorehead and Jordan Carstens, and wide receiver Keary Colbert, among others.

Of course, there are still many of areas of need to upgrade and none more pressing than at right tackle.

The Panthers got burned after signing Adam Meadows to a five-year, $15 million contract last offseason, only to watch him retire in the offseason. That left the team with a huge hole at right tackle, especially since it had released Todd Steussie and moved Jordan Gross over to left tackle.

Meadows' sudden departure didn't cost Carolina anything under the salary cap because he officially retired and agreed to repay his entire signing bonus. But the loss left the Panthers scrambling in the final weeks before the season opener.

They traded for two players, including Todd Fordham, but went into the season with 13-year veteran backup Matt Willig as their starter. Willig started the season and was later benched for Fordham. After an ankle injury, Willig regained the spot with five weeks to play.

But right tackle was a weak spot all season, and it showed up in the season's most important game -- a loss to the New Orleans Saints in the finale. The Panthers gave up six sacks in that game, four from the right tackle position, and could do little on offense. Two of those sacks resulted in Jake Delhomme turnovers.

The Panthers almost certainly will look for a new right tackle, either in free agency or the first or second round of the NFL draft.

While there will certainly be some other changes, including some in the return game, the Panthers should have a fairly quiet offseason aside from the Muhammad situation.

Carolina needs to restructure his deal before March 1, when he's scheduled to get a $10 million signing bonus. Muhammad is expected to seek a contract close to what Marvin Harrison received in Indianapolis. But it's unclear if the Panthers can re-sign him given the amount of money they've sunk into Steve Smith at that position.

Still, it's hard to not throw a lot of money at Muhammad after he caught a league-high 16 touchdown passes and only seemed to get better as the season progressed.

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