Pre-Draft Team Needs

The Panthers were ravaged by injury on both sides of the ball last season but that didn't stop them from putting up a nice winning streak which put them in position to make a serious run at a playoff spot.<br><br> However, as the club heads in to the rest of free agency and this month's draft, several questions remain.

Will Travelle Wharton line up at right tackle? Where will free agent signee Mike Wahle play? Who will be their starting running back? Can veteran back Stephen Davis prove his surgically repaired knee is sound? Will oft-injured DeShaun Foster be ready to push Davis again for the job? Is No.1 wide receiver Steve Smith fully recovered from his injury? Can second-year wide receiver Keary Colbert step up his play and prove he's worthy of manning a starting spot?

Defensively, the team also has some issues. Does veteran tackle Brenston Buckner have anything left in the tank? Can end Mike Rucker bounce back from his disappointing season? Can oft-injured middle linebacker Dan Morgan stay healthy for a change?


OFFENSIVE TACKLE: With veteran offensive lineman Mike Wahle slated to play at left guard, it appears second-year lineman Travelle Wharton is going to man the right tackle position—at least for the moment. Even though Wharton showed some promise last season, he's far from proven. What might wind up happening is, as the team gets closer training camp, that they move Wahle to right tackle and keep Jordan Gross at left tackle. In that scenario, they could then look to the rest of free agency to fill the need at guard. That position generally isn't that hard to fill.

GUARD: If Wahle moves to tackle, then the team will really need to look for a veteran guard to step in and start. They could also use some quality depth at the position.

WIDE RECEIVER: With the release of veteran wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad, the team really lacks depth at the position. In fact, after Steve Smith and second-year pro Keary Colbert, you'd be hard-pressed to find any receivers with upside on the roster. The receiver position is one that they could use at least two more players at as we head in to the draft and the rest of free agency.

FREE AGENCY / OFF-SEASON: KEY ACQUISITIONS: G/OT Mike Wahle: UFA Packers; S Idrees Bashir: UFA Colts; S Marlon McCree: UFA Texans; CB Ken Lucas: UFA Seahawks.

PLAYERS RE-SIGNED: RB Jamal Robertson: RFA; WR Karl Hankton: UFA.

KEY DEPARTURES: WR Muhsin Muhammad (Released): Bears; G Doug Brzezinski (Released); LB Brian Allen: UFA Redskins; CB Artrell Hawkins (Released); S Travares Tillman: UFA Dolphins.



UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: RB Brandon Bennett; G Rich Tylski; OT Matt Willig; DE Kavika Pittman; OLB Jessie Armstead; OLB Mark Fields; S Curtis Fuller; S Damien Richardson.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: DE Kemp Rassmussen; OLB Will Witherspoon; CB Dante Wesley.

EXCLUSIVE RIGHT FREE AGENTS: RB Joey Harris; FB Casey Cramer; DT Jordan Carstens; DT Omari Jordan; DT Cleveland Pinkney; LB Sean Tufts; MLB; Vinny Ciurciu; CB Eddie Jackson.

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