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Grill Bill: Is linebacker back in play?

Posted Apr 13, 2018

Could the Panthers draft a linebacker to help mitigate losing Thomas Davis for the first quarter of next season?

Website submission from Shane in Raleigh: Does the Thomas Davis suspension affect the draft strategy? I'm confident in Shaq Thompson being the heir to 58, but that leaves us with just David Mayo as a reliable backup for four games. With Davis' retirement (allegedly) on the horizon, do you see this pushing the timeline to grab another LB? Maybe in the 3rd? Thanks!

I’m surprised I haven’t seen more of this since the Davis news broke. Assumed there would be more folks hitting the panic button.

It’s not a ridiculous question, but I don’t think it’s a wrench in the plans they’ve been making for months. 

With their first four picks, the Panthers have to find guys who can make meaningful contributions in 2018. A third-round linebacker would be hard-pressed to do that even during Davis’ suspension.

If they’re going to add a linebacker, the soonest that should happen is Day Three. By then, you’re looking for the next A.J. Klein or David Mayo – someone who can help, but not a sure-fire starter for whenever the post-Davis days arrive.  


Can’t see another in the first. Wouldn’t shock me if it happened as soon as the second.

If it were me, I’d tick off this box via those third-round picks. 

It'd be ideal if a back you like falls to you in the third. But if there’s a run on the position late in the second or early in the third, you may have to trade away one of those thirds to snag someone. 


When have I said or written they’re not going to draft one? Surely not in last week’s column

Asked if I think the Panthers will draft a safety early, I replied: 

“Depends on what you consider early. If you mean at No. 24, I’ll say no. … I think there are only two safeties worth a top-25 pick in this draft. And Derwin James and Minkah Fitzpatrick aren’t making it to 24.” 

That’s why it’s worth sticking around till the end because you must have missed this: 

“Safety needs to be addressed sometime this draft.” 

The game of internet telephone doesn’t have to be that hard. 



When they were researching Cockrell ahead of the 2014 draft, the Panthers did think Cockrell had nickel potential. But I imagine both parties now prefer he stays on the outside. I also imagine that, if they spend a first-round pick on a corner like Alexander, they’d want him to win the starting spot across from James Bradberry

In that hypothetical, I guess they could think about using Alexander inside and out like they did with Captain Munnerlyn in 2013. But it’s more likely nickel will come down to a battle between Munnerlyn, Kevon Seymour and Corn Elder


To be fair, he’s not 25. Yet. He’s 24 until August. 

I hear your concern, though. 

Teams obviously hope their first-round picks will play well enough to pick up fifth-year options. For Hurst, that would be his age-29 season. So, in a best-case scenario, he’s not getting a second contract until he’s 30. 

That’s not ideal, but if the Panthers think Hurst is good enough to help get Cam Newton that much closer to a Super Bowl win, I wouldn’t be shocked to see them downplay the age thing.


For these final few questions, try this concept on for size. 

LIGHTNING ROUND!

It's more possible than likely, if that makes sense.


That's the plan/hope. 

At the draft? Yup. 

ICYMI


Have a feeling the football folks here wouldn’t be thrilled if I shared names no one is connecting them to.


Steven is on the left. New wideout Jarius Wright on the right. 

Yeah, I can’t claim to be 100 percent sure. 


C'mon, man.