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Carolina Panthers

Ask Bryan: Setting stage for the Draft


Is there any chance we sign another veteran to play in the secondary? – Cornell in Charleston, S.C.

This question came in less than two hours before the Panthers announced the signing of Trenton Robinson, a safety who spent the past three seasons in Washington. Robinson showed signs of coming into his own last season, starting seven of the first nine games before a hamstring injury short-circuited his season. He's always been a positive contributor on special teams. Last season, he made one of the key plays to turning Washington's season around, recovering an onside kick early in the third quarter against Tampa Bay to spark the biggest comeback in franchise history. The rally from a 24-point hole led to quarterback Kirk Cousins' now-famed "You like that?" exclamation.

"We really like how hard he plays and his physical nature," assistant defensive backs coach Richard Rodgers said. "He will be a good addition to the group."

Robinson joins a safety group headed by Kurt Coleman – the definition of a successful free agent move – Tre Boston and Colin Jones. The Panthers also are excited about finding out what 2015 undrafted free agent Dean Marlowe can do.

Do you think the signing of Trenton Robinson is going to affect the Panthers' first-round draft choice? It would make sense for the Panthers to grab a DB early, but do you think this move opens up their options? – Tiger in Raleigh, N.C.

I like it when we sign free agents. It puts us in good position to draft the best available player in the first round. – Dino via Twitter

Seems like a simple enough concept, and it's one that the Panthers advocate. Left tackle and wide receivers were question marks last offseason, and the Panthers signed free agents Michael Oher at left tackle and Ted Ginn, Jr. at receiver. They took both a tackle and receiver in the draft but opened with a "luxury pick" in the first round with linebacker Shaq Thompson.

So far this offseason, they've shored up their depth at safety with Robinson and the interior of both fronts with Paul Soliai on defense and Gino Gradkowski on offense. Coming off a 15-1 season, there's no gaping hole even if Carolina makes no more free agent moves, so that once again makes it easier not to reach based on need come draft time.

Why do you think Dave Gettleman has not brought back Kyle Love? This is a position of need, and he proved himself as a quality backup last season. – Brandon in Buies Creek, N.C.

No one truly knows what goes on behind closed doors (well, Gettleman and Love do in this case), but Gettleman said at the start of free agency that the door isn't fully closed on any of the Panthers' free agents. Then at the NFL Annual Meeting on Tuesday, Gettleman specially said there have been ongoing talks with Love and that there remains a chance that he returns next season. On the other hand, Gettleman reiterated the depth of the draft class at defensive tackle.

Love was a key rotation player last season, and he could help again for sure. Keep in mind, though, that the Panthers already secured help for starters Star Lotuelei and Kawann Short with the signing of Soliai, a former Pro Bowler.

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