I know it really depends how the NFL Draft plays out, but what do you think of the possibility of the Panthers being a trade-up target for teams trying to get ahead of the Denver Broncos for that second tier of quarterbacks? – Nicholas in Asheboro, N.C.
It's an interesting thought, with the Panthers sitting at No. 30, one spot ahead of a Denver team that could consider taking a quarterback at No. 31. Would a team try to trade its second-round pick and something else to move into Carolina's spot?
While the scenario makes sense on the surface, there's nothing close to a guarantee that the Panthers would be interested. Like you said, the way the draft plays out would play a major role in the likelihood, but so far at least, general manager Dave Gettleman has been more interested in trading up than down. He did it twice last year – to grab wide receiver Devin Funchess in the second round and offensive tackle Daryl Williams in the fourth – and also traded up the previous year to take cornerback Bene Benwikere in the fifth round.
Of course, trading up rather than down was made easier by entering the draft with nine picks in 2015 and seven in 2014. This season, Carolina has six.
Also, with the way the Panthers like to do things, there's an added value to selecting a player late in the first round rather than trading down into the second round: Only first-round picks have a fifth-year club option on their rookie contracts.
What are your predictions on the Panthers' primetime schedule for the upcoming season? – Richard in Charlotte
At the end of my look at important offseason dates (which is still worth checking out), I speculated on the possibility of the Panthers-Broncos rematch of Super Bowl 50 being in prime time to kick off the 2016 season. History suggests it's a long shot, but it could happen. Also possible? That the Panthers have more primetime games than they've ever had.
The Panthers didn't have a single primetime game when Cam Newton was a rookie in 2011 – coming off a 2-14 season – but the powers that be quickly realized Newton was ready for primetime. The schedule release, typically in late April, featured two primetime dates in 2012 and 2013 and three in 2014 and 2015.
It's not crazy to think that the Panthers could wind up with four this season to go along with four West Coast trips. It would be fun for fans, yes, but would make for tough sledding from a rest and recovery standpoint for the reigning NFC champions. So many factors play into the schedule, but my top candidates would be games at the Broncos and Seahawks, home games against Arizona and Kansas City, and possibly an NFC South game.
Carolina will at the least have an appearance on Thursday Night Football somewhere on its schedule, and that could gives fans around the world a chance to tune in live. Twitter will partner with the NFL to stream 10 Thursday night games next season, it was announced Tuesday.
Is it possible the Gettlefather is not spending much in free agency because we have a lot more free agents in 2017 than this year? Could he be saving the money to extend some of our own players after the draft? – Cory in Orlando
I had to field this question if for no other reason to get in the "Gettlefather" nickname. Good stuff.
Gettleman is always measured in his approach, and that is in part with an eye toward the future. Defensive tackle Kawann Short is entering the final year of his rookie contract, as is Star Lotulelei, although the Panthers have indicated they'll use the fifth-year option on the former first-round pick.
At the same time, I would say Gettleman has been willing to spend where needed, setting up the Panthers to draft the best available player without worrying about position need. The signing of nickel corner Brandon Boykin and safety Trenton Robinson improved the secondary situation; the return of defensive end Charles Johnson and defensive tackle Kyle Love and the addition of defensive tackle Paul Soliai shored up that front; and the signing of Gino Gradkowski helped the depth along the offensive line. And don't forget that the Panthers spent to bring Pro Bowl fullback Mike Tolbert back and have committed a big chunk of change to bring Pro Bowl cornerback Josh Norman back.
The Panthers currently have 73 players on their roster. There are allowed 90 and will get there through the draft, college free agency and maybe even another free agent pickup or two.