Offseason Dossier -- RB

Most Panther fans understand what the needs of the team are, and what the needs likely will be after a series of cuts come in the next couple of weeks. Owner Jerry Richardson met with GM Marty Hurney and head coach John Fox a few weeks ago and emerged stating that the Panthers would have an active offseason. Where do they start?

What we do know is that the team wants to emulate the 2003 team that went to the Super Bowl. To do that, they'll need a fierce defense, a solid running game and a dominant offensive line.

They could go after big name free agents to fill some holes / roles.

RB -- The Panthers want a power running game. It's obvious that after two seasons, DeShaun Foster is not suited for the role they wish him to play. There are a few free agents that could fill this void:

Marion Barber -- Barber would be perfect for the Panthers, but he's a restricted free agent. Dallas will more than likely give him a tender in which any team wishing to sign him would have to surrender a first and third round pick. Is that too much for Barber, if you think he's the missing piece to you winning the super bowl?

T.J. Duckett -- Fizzled out with the Falcons and Detroit and is slated to be an unrestricted free agent. Duckett doesn't run with as much power as his size would indicate, but is better than any other option the Panthers currently have. He would be the counter-punch to DeAngelo Williams, who would be the #1 back in this scenario.

Jamal Lewis -- Lewis signed a 1-year deal with the Cleveland Browns last year and provided the power running game they coveted. Lewis is back on the market with even less tread on his tires. His past transgressions with the law make it very unlikely that he would be a target of the Panthers.

Musa Smith -- Smith could be an interesting pickup for the Panthers. He runs with power and could move the chains. The Panthers could be scared away by his injury history, however.

Michael Turner -- Turner is the top running back available in free agency. He runs with speed and power, and is the kind of back the Panthers want to build their offense around. At 25 years old, Turner doesn't have a great deal of wear and tear on his body after sitting on the bench behind LaDanian Tomlinson the last few seasons. Turner could get a transitional or franchise tag placed on him by the Chargers, who would rather sign and trade him than let him walk. Will the Panthers be willing to pay a back top dollar AND surrender a top draft choice to acquire a running back of Turner's caliber?

Free agency isn't the only place to get a top-shelf running back. There are several that figure to be available in the upcoming NFL Draft.

Jonathan Stewart, Oregon -- Stewart, who measures in at 5' 11", 230 lbs. is the prototype running back. He's got size, speed and can catch. If he lasts till pick #13, the Panthers should pounce on him. How often do teams have a chance to select a player of this caliber?

Kevin Smith, UCF -- Snootchie Bootches! *No, not that Kevin Smith* -- The 6' 1", 211-lb. running back from Central Florida was the Nation's top rusher in 2007. Smith, like former Panther running back Stephen Davis, is known for his patience and vision. It's unlikely the Panthers would take a running back with these traits, as their offensive line doesn't allow running backs to have patience or vision.

Matt Forte, Tulane -- Forte shot up the charts a bit after his strong showing during the Senior Bowl. Forte was was named MVP after carrying the ball for a game-high 59 yards and making 4 catches for 38 yards, one of which, a 13-yard catch during the game's final drive, helped propel the South team to victory. Forte is a big back, standing 6' 1" and weighing in at 221 lbs., has a good combination of size and speed and would fit the role of the Panthers' bell cow that they desperately need to be successful.

NEXT WEEK: We look at who will be available to fill the void at WR next to Steve Smith

Panther Insider Top Stories