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Ask Bryan: Readying the roster

Posted Apr 13, 2017

Will free agent additions made by division foes, free agent losses for the Panthers impact how they draft?

How much does what teams in our division do in the offseason affect our strategy in building our roster? Example, with Tampa Bay getting DeSean Jackson, would we look to possibly acquire an impact corner before an edge rusher in the draft? – Rick in Hamptonville, N.C.

In a general sense, the Panthers keep the makeup of other teams in their division in mind when constructing their roster, but not typically to the extent of signing a specific player to combat a specific player. Even before Jackson joined the NFC South, the quality of pass catchers and passers in the division contributed to Carolina's emphasis on rangy cornerbacks and effective pass rushers, but at the same time those are pillars of any top-notch defense in the NFL.

Jackson is arguably the top free agent signing by a division foe. The Saints have been busy in free agency and it hit close to home, with the additions of wide receiver Ted Ginn, Jr. (see the next question) and linebacker A.J. Klein. They attempted to further shore up their defense with linebacker Manti Te'o and defensive end Alex Okafor and improved their offensive line with guard Larry Warford. The Falcons have been pretty quiet coming off their Super Bowl appearance, though the signing of defensive tackle Dontari Poe made some noise.

The Panthers' top moves included the addition of left tackle Matt Kalil and future Hall of Fame defensive end Julius Peppers. As for defending Jackson, who will be paired with Mike Evans in Tampa Bay, Carolina added nickel cornerback Captain Munnerlyn and veteran safety Mike Adams. It's possible the Panthers could look to add a highly touted defensive back in the first round of the draft or alternatively add to their cornerback depth later in the draft, but it wouldn't merely be a reaction to Jackson.

Why did the Panthers give up Ginn? Wasn't he a great deep threat at WR? – Michael in Charlotte

Ginn was a nice weapon for Carolina, a speedster capable of "taking the top off the defense" as head coach Ron Rivera was apt to say. The Panthers didn't give up on him. They openly discussed their interest in re-signing him, but as an unrestricted free agent, Ginn was the one in control, and he signed with the Saints.

Free agent signing Charles Johnson, who ran at 4.42 in the 40 at his pro day in 2013, could fill that role, and fellow free agent signing Russell Shepard is just a fraction of a step behind in that regard. And of course, there's the draft…

If the Panthers were to draft a wide receiver with the eighth pick, do you think we stick with our typical big bodied WRs like a Mike Williams or Corey Davis, or do we go for a slot/speed guy like John Ross or Curtis Samuel? – Zach in Charlotte

The Panthers have talked about looking to upgrade the slot spot. Ross broke the 40 time record at the NFL Scouting Combine, and Samuel is speedy as well, not to mention versatile. Williams and Davis do more fit the mold of big outside receivers, but I do wonder if Davis could succeed in the slot. He's much bigger than Ross or Samuel but not as big as Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess, and he's noted for playing big but also for coming up big with his ability to carve out separation on routes and separate for yards after catch.

I think it's possible that Davis could provide the best of both worlds. As such, he might be the best choice of the bunch at No. 8 if the Panthers opted to go in the direction of a receiver.

If we were to trade one of our second-round picks to move back up into the first round, who do you see potentially targeting? Thanks! – Darrian in Winston-Salem, N.C.

So many factors play into the possible answer to this question, starting of course with who the Panthers take at No. 8. The most intriguing scenario to me would be one where the Panthers are really tempted by two players at No. 8 and then the one they don't pick is still on the board as the draft approaches the 20-25 range. Based merely on mocks as opposed to any actual knowledge of the team's draft board, say Carolina covets safety Jamal Adams and running back Christian McCaffrey at No. 8 but goes with Adams. Then, come the stretch run of the first round, McCaffrey is still available. Would general manager Dave Gettleman consider trading in such a scenario? History indicates he might.