General manager Dave Gettleman's goal is to make sure the Panthers have their best 53 players on the roster when the 2013 season begins. To reach that goal, Gettleman is working to strengthen the 90-man roster in order to make the eventual 53-man roster as strong as possible.
The Panthers added five players via the NFL Draft last week that will help. Here's a look at them and how they fit into their position groups.
Less than five weeks ago, the Panthers had no sure-fire starters among their defensive tackle group. Now they have two of the top prospects in the 2013 draft as well as veteran
Lotulelei is arguably the best run-stopping tackle in the class, a steal at No. 14 overall. Short is arguably the best pass-rushing tackle in the class and could have easily been selected in the first round.
Gettleman described both space-eaters as every-down players, but the beauty is they don't have to play every down (and ideally you don't want defensive tackles playing every down). The rookies will be able to rotate with Edwards and at least one other tackle to stay fresh and ferocious, setting the stage for the Panthers' talented stable of linebackers to make plays.
Who that other tackle (or two) will be is hard to say. Upon selecting Lotulelei, Gettleman mentioned
A year ago, a rookie hailing from a Division II school secured a starting guard spot for the Panthers. Another one now has the chance to do the same thing, but it's less likely to happen right away.
In 2012, second-round choice
Hangartner has started 28 games since returning to the Panthers prior to the 2011 season but is also entering his ninth NFL season, meaning durability potentially could become more and more of a concern.
Kugbila needs some time to develop. Hangartner could be an excellent mentor, and with the other three guards currently on the roster (
The Panthers have plenty of quality depth at linebacker, so why draft someone there?
Thank goodness that wasn't the line of logic last year, when the Panthers drafted
With Kuechly flanked by
Enter Klein, a fifth-round selection capable of playing all three linebacker spots and sure to contribute on special teams from Day One. And if the injury bug hits the brutal position yet again, Klein has a Kuechly-like maturity that suggests he could step in sooner rather than later if need be. Let's just hope it's not sooner for the sake of the starters.
Speaking of loaded positions, the Panthers are as deep as anyone at running back, with
Barner, however, was too good of a talent to still be on the board in the sixth round, and again the goal is to eventually field the best 53-man roster possible. Barner could initially be a dangerous third-down type of back, and he could be special on special teams.
Finding a jersey for him on Sundays might not be easy, but it's easy to see why the Panthers didn't pass on a player who rushed for more than 3,600 yards at Oregon even while spending three seasons as a reserve.