If the Panthers want to improve in 2008, they’ve got a lot of work to do.
But as Peter King of Sports Illustrated points out, they’ve got huge constraints (scroll down to “stat of the week”) on what they can do.
As of early December, only three teams — Washington, Baltimore and Atlanta — had less room under the salary cap than the Panthers’ $6.05 million. And if Atlanta can get back some of the bonus money it paid or owes Michael “Inmate” Vick, it will be in even better shape. On top of that, the Panthers have only 35 players under contract for next year, meaning they’ll need to do a lot of deals. Only Arizona, with 34, is in worse shape.
I’ve talked in other posts about what the team’s needs are. Now the question is how to fill them, and what to fill them with. That will take money, and to make that money available, some Panthers, including some fairly expensive ones, are going to get gone.
I don’t have any particular insight into who they might be, but I think two obvious ones are David Carr and Dan Morgan. Carr — and I’ll admit this surprised me — was a disaster as a backup quarterback. It’s hard to imagine any future in football for Morgan after his long record of injuries. (No one remembers this, but he was drafted in part because he had been so durable during his college years.)
While this might strike some as sacrilege, I would also think hard about letting Julius Peppers go. He has a year left on his contract if I recall correctly, but after the year he has just had, I honestly wonder whether he is worth keeping. He clearly hasn’t responded to team owner Jerry Richardson’s call to step up and become a team leader, and for all his natural gifts, I’ve long wondered whether he has the desire to become the player his gifts could make him.
DE Mike Rucker might retire. FB Brad Hoover may well be gone. But however it shakes out, a year after attempting to stand pat personnel-wise, the Panthers are headed toward a major housecleaning.