Panthers still need a starting linebacker

There are plenty of veteran outside linebackers remaining in free agency, and the Carolina Panthers could eventually sign a player who agrees to a very modest contract. The Panthers have a lot to offer, even perhaps a starting job.

After losing Will Witherspoon and cutting Brandon Short, the team must fill both outside spots. One spot will likely go to Thomas Davis, but the other is vacant. Adam Seward, a rookie who played part of last season, and veteran Chris Draft are the likely candidates now. But there's a good chance Carolina will add a veteran.

"We still haven't decided yet who will play where. But as far as the move (of Thomas Davis) from safety up to linebacker, that's a decision we've made," coach John Fox said. "Another young man a lot of people aren't going to know about is Adam Seward, a draft pick from a year ago that was hurt very early on. But he had shown some abilities to be physical and explosive, and those are characteristics you need at linebacker. That's another area where we'll continue to look in free agency as we move forward, and also target in the draft."

It doesn't appear the team will try to bring back Mark Fields, who decided against signing with the Panthers after a relapse of his Hodgkin's disease last summer.

"In the discussions I've had with the medical people, the impression I'm getting is that it might not be in Mark's best interest," Fox said. "I'm not a cancer expert, but I would never do anything to jeopardize his health. I talk to Mark, but not really about him coming back."

Fox is excited about Davis moving to linebacker full-time after playing some safety last year.

"Really, I thought that was his best position when we drafted him. Sometimes, how to best utilize your personnel is not always in the individual player's best interest," Fox said. "(This is) in the individual player's best interest. That's our belief right now, that his best position is linebacker. He's got no problems with that.

"He's a very explosive and fast defensive football player and we feel like he's going to be able to help us somewhere. If anything, we did him an injustice moving him back and forth. It's a team game and we've got to do what's best for the team. That might have hurt his growth, but he's a guy we're counting on doing some big things this year. He did everything we ever asked. Now, he's going to start the season as a linebacker and Lord willing, he'll stay there and I know he'll play well."

As for the upcoming draft, Fox believes it is full of top linebackers.

"It's one of the better linebacker groups I've seen at the top. Unfortunately, we're not at the top. But it's pretty deep. I like the DB group this year. I don't think the receiver group is as strong as it's been the last couple of years. The O-line is always in the eyes of the beholder, but I think it's pretty good."

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