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Ask The Old Guy: School's back

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CHARLOTTE — Hey, look, football people, doing (almost) football things.

The first week of voluntary offseason workouts is always an interesting time. Has a very first week of school quality, where everyone's got a certain energy to meet their new teachers and see their old friends.

Of course, a lot of these guys have been around previously to work out on their own, but this week, the Panthers descended upon Bank of America Stadium en masse to work out together.

And the together is probably a bigger deal than anything else happening. Run together. Lift together. Meet together. Eat together. As new special teams coordinator Tracy Smith was discussing JJ Jansen, Johnny Hekker, and Eddy Piñeiro this week, he called them "a good lunchtime hang," and that's something that has a value that can become something more in time.

Of course, none of it matters if, as Dave Canales says, they fail to "get the football right." That's the most important thing, and they won't get into the meat of the football for a minute. During phase one of the offseason program (which lasts the first two weeks), position coaches or coordinators aren't even on the field, only strength coaches. There are no helmets (unless a guy is on the Jugs machine because safety) and no footballs except for quarterbacks throwing to uncovered receivers or special teamers kicking, punting, snapping, or holding. It's just working out and meeting and then eating lunch. That's enough for the moment.

And for what it's worth, it seems to be going well. It's all voluntary, and there are lots of volunteers. Guys will be in and out (backup quarterback Andy Dalton was at the league's Broadcast Boot Camp this week), but attendance is good. Even an old head like Jadeveon Clowney, a guy who signed up later in the year for past jobs, was here on the first day. Guys will be in and out though, but the trend line is good. People are here doing the thing.

This is also that week to catch your breath between a busy free agent market and the draft at the end of the month. Between the two of them, you had lots of questions. Let's get to them:

Bryce Young


It's been a minute since I've sent in a question. I have to be honest; I've been watching from a distance and not saying too much with all the recent churn. I'm cautiously optimistic. I've been impressed with the moves the new FO has made (I still think they need another CB), and I like the energy Canales brings. Anyway, if you had to guess where Dan Morgan's willingness to trade is, where would it be? — Dan, Venetia, PA

Welcome back, Dan. We missed you. I was beginning to worry and was considering a search party, but frankly, I'm not sure how safe I feel in the wilds of Western Pennsylvania.

Things can always change, but my sense of it at the moment is that Morgan's going to lean conservative with his draft picks, especially this offseason. (And like you, I think a cornerback is among the things they still need.)

I don't think Morgan is completely opposed to trading, but there have been some moves in recent years that were perhaps a little cavalier with draft picks. I've always been of the opinion that if you can turn a sixth or a seventh into a useful NFL player, that's good business since sixes and sevens rarely pan out. But when you start sending twos and threes and fours for people who aren't difference-makers, that's different. A team needs price-controlled labor to keep the books in balance, so contributors on rookie contracts are necessary to keep from having to overspend on free agents.

The Panthers spent heavily on free agents this offseason because they needed to, but this isn't going to be the norm. It can't be. That's why I think Dan's going to be greedy with his draft picks in the near term; he knows he needs several of them to hit.

The Panthers may not have a first, but with 33, 39, and 65 on the second day of the draft, they ought to be able to add three players who can help this team, even if they're not immediate starters. The Panthers filled a lot of vacancies in free agency, so they don't have big glaring needs, but there are still a number of obvious positions where they need help. So trading up seems unlikely.

Now, will they trade down? Maybe. If there are quarterbacks at the top of the second round, and people get itchy for one and want to overpay for the privilege of picking 33rd, perhaps. But those kinds of deals are actually kind of rare and not as lucrative as you think.

Teams have only actively traded for the 33rd pick three times since 2000, and the compensation isn't the kind that can change a franchise. (Three other times, the 33rd pick was used as part of deals to move up into the first round.)

In 2023, the Cardinals got a second, a third, and a 2024 third (41, 72, and this year's 71st) from the Titans for a second and third (33 and 81) so the Titans could take quarterback Will Levis.

In 2015, the Titans got a second, a fourth, and a seventh (40, 108, 245) from the Giants for the 33rd pick when the Giants wanted safety Landon Collins.

In 2007, the Raiders got a second and a fourth (38, 105) for the 33rd pick from the Cardinals, who wanted defensive tackle Alan Branch.

If somebody wanted to give the Panthers a future first for that slot, you have to listen. And maybe a quarterback creates that kind of desperation. But moving back in the second round usually doesn't offer franchise-changing compensation, so the best bet may be to hang tight and take players you want.

They will be available.

Dan Morgan


Hey Darin, quick question for the confused. Your recent article regarding Derrick Brown included a quote about the Panthers making a statement about extending their own. This is where my confusion comes in. Everyone wants to separate Dan Morgan from the previous regime, which I think is a bit irresponsible. While he wasn't the ultimate decision maker, he was part of the team that allowed drafted (also known as their own) players such as DJ Moore, Christian McCaffery, Brian Burns, and Jeremy Chinn to go elsewhere. Specifically, Brian Burns, as he WAS the ultimate decision-maker. This move doesn't seem like taking care of their own; it's more like taking care of the last asset of value the team has. — Lem, Charlotte

The reality is the die was cast on the Burns deal when Morgan took over. Anyone they hired as GM was likely to preside over that deal or a similar one since they spent more than a year talking about a long-term contract with Burns and couldn't get there. It was time to move on, and the ghosts of the deals they turned down in the past weren't returning. Also, the cap room saved by removing the franchise tag value of Burns' one-year offer helped fund the busy free agency that filled many holes.

The point is, those kind of moves have to stop, and Brown is the literal and figurative anchor that can do that. Got to start somewhere.

As with all things with this new administration, time will tell if the correct decisions are being made and the right steps taken.

But there is a measure of proof in taking care of Brown a year early, and the benefit is having him around for the full offseason as a visual reminder to young players. As defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero said Thursday, it's a signal that your hardest working and best players get rewarded. So Derrick lifting weights and running sprints is an unsubtle reminder to others of what it can look like.

Derrick Brown


Stefon Diggs just got traded for a SECOND ROUND PICK (and the Texans also got a sixth and fifth-rounder)!! Why didn't we trade one of our second-round picks for him??? — Zach, Charlotte

Because players cost money (and punctuation marks should be more expensive, so people don't use too many of them, with exclamation marks prohibitively so).

In a vacuum, Diggs, a five, and a six for a two seems reasonable. But in a vacuum, there's also a lot of crumbs and dog hair.

When the Texans traded for the Bills receiver, they inherited a significant deal, and then made it significantly better for Diggs by wiping out the final three years of his contract. They're guaranteeing $22.5 million this year, and allowing him to be a free agent at the end of the season. That's an expensive rental.

You can't take the finances out of the equation, especially with a short-term contract. As with the Burns money being used to fund deals for many other parts, having that one big number would have prevented a lot of other things. And even though players with contracts like that are often worth it, the Panthers aren't in a spot where too many of those big numbers make sense.

Now, as always Zach, GET BACK TO CLASS!!! (Pun-ctuation, intended.)

Diontae Johnson


Darin, as a FOTM, I'll just ask you a question this time around, OK? Bryce Young has an awful lot of change around him right now: a new GM, HC, a new offensive line, and new receivers. That's a lot for a player with just one NFL season under his belt. My question is: What should be Young's top five priorities this year, and how well-equipped do you think he is to meet the challenge? KEEP POUNDING GUYS! — Jim, Timberlake, NC

Bryce's top five priorities at the moment, in order, should be:

— Monday
— Tuesday
— Wednesday
— Thursday
— Friday

Followed closely by
— Saturday and Sunday (because recovery is important).

That's not meant to be flip (OK, it's meant to be a little flip), but the point is that last year was a big disaster that can't be fixed in one day. So Bryce's priority ought to be getting Monday as right as he can, followed by getting Tuesday as right as he can. Doing the little things the right way every day is the only way to build lasting things, whether you're writing or quarterbacking or laying bricks.

So getting in there, leading the offensive group through conditioning work, going through the first round of meetings, and getting to know Diontae Johnson and Robert Hunt and Damien Lewis is the important stuff for Young right now.

He has a whole offseason to build rapport and learn a new system, but the only thing he can do on Monday is Monday stuff, so he should do that. And he is.

As to what he's equipped for, I'd say he's built for the kind of steady, day-to-day work this job requires. He's good at steady. He's not a too-high/too-low guy (though there were absolutely moments of emotion last year that a lot of people didn't see). He's a show up and work kind of guy. Which is exactly what the moment requires.

People tend to look for fast fixes to big problems, but Bryce and this team need to be OK with getting stable and then being normal and then building on that. It's not flashy, but being flashy in April isn't the point.

Bryce Young


Darin, you hear and see a whole lot more on the inside than we do. Out here, it is starting to feel like things are rolling along nicely. There is not a lot of hearing what they are going to do. They are quietly doing it. I like all of the moves so far, and we have several draft picks to hopefully hit on. I believe some of the coaching staff were in disbelief at what was going on last year, and their players suffered as a result; OL, WR, and RB are some good examples. Good players do not just suddenly become bad. Not 2-15 bad. My question is, are you, too, feeling this change in, call it culture? Thank you for all you do! — Stephen, Columbia, SC

Vibe checks are so hard. Last March and April, none of us imagined it was going to get as sideways as it did, as fast as it did.

But this year hasn't been the kind of over-the-top overcorrection, either. Players — including guys who have played other places and seen other coaches — say things have been very businesslike and very normal. Again, and I'll probably say this a lot this year, but normal is good. The league is built to push everyone to the middle, so getting back there is a positive step.

I've also long believed there is a danger in evaluating any individual when the whole system is broken. So no, a lot of people involved in a 2-15 team aren't necessarily 2-15 players or coaches or staffers. Last year got away from them, and avalanches seldom turn around and go back up the mountain.

But to Stephen's point, this offseason has felt almost understated, which is a good thing. Do normal things well for a couple of years and see what happens. It will only become culture if Canales gets the football right and Morgan and the front office keep getting signings and draft picks right. That's when the vibe begins to feed itself instead of the other way around.


Hi Darin, your faithful P4L Germany fan, checking in and very excited for another Panthers Football Season. I believe Dave and Dan are keeping their word when they said Get the Football Right, bring in DAWGS, and they have made some very good moves/signings in Free Agency. Much needed improvement on the O-Line to protect Bryce, bringing in experienced defensive veterans to refill the holes with the key players we lost, one being Clowney, was praying for that addition. A home run with the addition of the WR from the Steelers. If we can add depth in needed positions in the draft, TE, WR, RB, and Defense/Offense, we are building for the future in the right direction.

It would also be a huge improvement if many of our fan base would become more positive and cease with all the negative drama. As usual, each year, I start out with high-energy aspirations, and I just want to see results this season, and I am confident I will. I know it is one game at a time, but anything is possible, and I hope to see a winning season this year. Oh, by the way, I sent you my mailing address as you requested, but still waiting on the gift you said you were going to send. As I plan on attending the Panthers game in Munchen, providing I can get a ticket (I am registered to receive info when the tickets go on sale, but there is no guarantee), it would be fantastic if you could arrange for me to meet the team when they are here if possible (best gift ever). GO PANTHERS, KEEP ON POUNDING. — Kenneth, Stuttgart, Germany

Kenneth, still working on the overseas shipping, but I have an idea I'll run by you offline since you're one of the chosen few. Stay tuned. Also, no promises on the other stuff, as I have no idea about the itinerary for that trip, or even when it will be. But I haven't forgotten about you.

In addition to your other points, it seems like you and Stephen are picking up similar vibes. The moves they've made have made sense. All of this stuff seems right. Now they have to execute a well-considered plan. That's the key.

I promised to never tell fans how to fan, and I don't intend to start. But I just know that fan behavior tends to follow results, so if the wins happen, a lot of attitudes will likely get a lot better.

Johnny Hekker


I think Dan and Dave had a nice ground rule double during free agency. Maybe, even a stand-up triple if we include Diontae Johnson. It was fruitful, if not spectacular, work. Cornerback seems the most glaring spot. I'm a huge proponent of taking the highest guy on my board regardless of need. I am also pragmatic enough to know you just have to draft for need when the times call for it. Where are the Panthers on the spectrum between the two in relation to the pair of seconds? Appreciate you. — Deric, Gastonia, NC

Always pick the best player. Always, always, always.

The Panthers had a Dan Morgan when they drafted a Jon Beason, and they had a Jon Beason when they drafted a Luke Kuechly. That's the best way to avoid shopping hungry.

Once they signed Clowney, they eliminated the last big gaping hole in the depth chart. Some positions are obviously thinner than others, and cornerback is among them.

They could start Jaycee Horn and Dane Jackson, with Troy Hill at nickel, and have a solid secondary. But people are going to wonder about Horn playing a full season until he does it, and Jackson's still an unknown commodity (one of the rare defensive additions who have never played for Ejiro Evero). So yes, I could absolutely see a corner taken high. But, Evero also had some kind words about Jackson, and was encouraged about his fit here.

Honestly, when you consider those two second-round picks (33 and 39), you could state a needs-based case for a pass-rusher, a corner, a center, an off-ball linebacker, a tight end, and of course, a receiver. That's why you just set your board based on talent and then trust it.

If those two spots yield a non-corner or a non-receiver, there's always 65 and 101 (and free agents whose prices tend to come down after the draft).

What you don't do is panic and take the 10th- or 11th-best player at one position over the top guy at a different position. Play the long game. Be normal. Trust your evaluations.


Darin, the wisdom from a deceased uncle is in my pre-draft thinking. If my aunt had wheels, she'd be a wagon. His wisdom may not be valid in this current time? Who knows? Point being, if is a BIG word, if T'Vondre Sweat is there at pick #33, would the Panthers run to the podium? Imagine him in the middle of a 3-4 defense? If his teammate from Texas, the blistering fast, I mean the fastest tee shirt 40-yard dash time recorded, Xavier Worthy, is there, do we pick him? Personally, I would prefer Mr. Sweat and hopefully get the other wide receiver named Xavier from USC...Mr. Legette? Who posted an impressive 4.39 second 40-yard dash time of 4.39 seconds at 6'3" tall weighing 227. Well, I am starting to confuse myself with numbers and all that fancy wisdom. I am rejuvenated as a fan with the front office moves, coaching changes, and coaching sameness. Hope springs eternal the first week of April. When in Kershaw, S.C., stop in at the 521 Filling Station and get a banana split....AWESOME!!! — Westray, Kershaw, SC

I had to edit Westray's question a little. This is a family Mailbag, sir.

Sweat's an intriguing player, but his recent arrest will likely cause him to slide past 33. I don't know if they're interested in him or not, but that's obviously a factor.

Speaking of Longhorns, the Panthers beefed up significantly by planting A'Shawn Robinson next to Shy Tuttle and Brown.

Nothing against DeShawn Williams (who followed the well-worn path to Buffalo), but the Panthers replaced 6-1, 295 with 6-3, 320 on the starting line. The numbers don't capture the scope of the difference, and that kind of mass matters. And Robinson is that kind of doorframe-big that the Panthers lacked up front. With the starting three and 2023 surprises Nick Thurman and LaBryan Ray, they've got a pretty good rotation already.

Receiver questions are going to linger. They have a sufficient need that they could make a case for a number of players. What you don't want to do is get locked into a type. But knock-the-top-out speed is always tantalizing.

And my promise to Westray is this: The next time I find myself in Kershaw, I will seek out the 521 Filling Station. That sounds like my kind of action, in case I need to add size up front myself.

Xavier Legette


As we have heard from Coach Canales and Dan Morgan in recent weeks, an integral part of our offensive identity moving forward will be our ability to run the football. Coach Canales has suggested, in fact, that the offense as a whole will be predicated on the ground game. In a league increasingly moving to high-flying, pass-first offenses, I found this assertion surprising. As a recent spectator of D'Onta Foreman at work (we miss you 33) and a child of the Smash N' Dash era of Panther football, I was positively giddy. While I've been impressed at the effort and improvement of Chuba Hubbard as of late, no other back on the roster attacks the line with anything resembling conviction. Raheem Blackshear is a decent speedster, though perhaps best suited to special teams. Miles Sanders seems to be a regrettable, high-dollar impulse purchase. We are thin at best, and as we saw with Christian McCaffrey late in his injury-riddled stint here, even the most talented back cannot carry a franchise for long.

My question, then, concerns the team's plans at this foundational position. Draft talk has been bogged down with linemen, receivers, and edges; oh my. Is there a promising pairing to Chuba in the later rounds? Is there a reliable option left in free agency after we somehow let D'Onta (I'm not bitter) slip again? I personally like Ray Davis out of Kentucky if I'm drafting, but I'm frankly perplexed concerning the contents at the bottom of the free-agent barrel. So much injury-prone potential down there, but perhaps it could be had for a song? Regardless of the approach, I think what we lack more than anything at this point is a true power back to tote the rock. Somebody who makes us all shout, Keep Pounding! Enough about what I think, though. I look forward to hearing from you? — Jacob, Conway, AR

Canales has talked about "running stubbornly" in Tampa, and that will doubtless be part of thinking here.

Hubbard has proven himself capable, and he's also worked at all the stuff he used to be less good at (like catching passes). I admire a man who understands his weaknesses and works to fix them.

Chuba might not be a big body like Foreman or Stephen Davis, but he runs with intent. He'll slam it up in there in short-yardage situations without fear. He runs bigger than he is.

I'd hesitate to dump on Sanders because we've seen him produce in other situations, so I want to see what he looks like in a new one here first. In theory, he's an interesting complement to Hubbard, and has proven himself a weapon in the passing game in Philadelphia.

Davis is interesting because, at 5-8, 211, he's got kind of a bowling-ball frame. I dig it. There's probably not a first-round running back this year, and there are a lot of vets still looking for work.

Again, this is where, if I'm Dan Morgan, I let market forces do what they do. Let the law of supply and demand work to your advantage. Tap into that position later and profit.

Chuba Hubbard


We heard from Jadeveon Clowney, but what is your go-to order at Bojangles? — Rob, Charlotte

This is actually a different Rob from Charlotte from our previous video Mailbag.

And asking me my favorite order at my favorite fast food establishment is like asking me my favorite kid. What kind of monster expects me to have one? But it also gives me a chance to talk about one of my favorite things in my city, so I'll make Rob this week's Friend Of The Mailbag, and get the appropriate honorarium heading his way.

Aside from my seasonal obsession during Lent, The Bojangler (seasoned fish sandwich, on a biscuit instead of a bun, no cheese), I will mix it up.

In the mornings, I'm pretty regular with sausage and egg biscuits (no cheese), Bo-rounds, and half-and-half tea. After lunch, it's most often a two-piece dark box, green beans, or dirty rice (though Cajun pintos are a mightily underrated side). I prefer actual chicken with bones as opposed to tenders, although it goobs people out when they see bones in the floorboard of my car.

I have experimented lately with the Bird Dog, which is a Supreme in a hot dog bun with sauce and a couple of pickles, and I am becoming a fan. It's both delicious and highly portable, and not the kind of messy that makes me a hazard if I eat one while driving. (Though the boy child says my ability to eat sandwiches while driving was a superpower he didn't realize everyone didn't possess. When my kids were younger and involved in sports and scouts and school activities, many meals were eaten in the car. You do what you have to do.)

But let's be honest, I'm in the cult. I'll pretty much eat anything Bojangles is serving up. They are from and of this city, and I have pledged my loyalty. Every July 6, I try to go to the OG (Bojangles 1, at the corner of South Tryon and West Boulevard) to pay my respects. God help me, I do love it so.


And on that note, let's go lightning round, brought to you by the patron saint of the lightning round Jeff from Fuquay-Varina, to close it out this week.

What is our plan for next season? Heavy run, Heavy pass, or heavy sweep. Same question for defense heavy rush or heavy zone? — Lane, Myrtle Beach, SC

He's not heavy; he's my brother. As a man who was once known as Heavy D in intramural football, I'm feeling this. I like where your head's at, Lane. In fact, I'm making you a bonus Friend Of The Mailbag for this alone. (Watch Lane be a Smedium).

Let's let them get on the field and do some football first (and finish adding parts to the roster), and we'll know more about intent.

Hi Darin, are the Panthers planning on hosting a draft party this year? On Day 2 of the draft? Thanks, and Keep Pounding. — Shaked, Charlotte

No party this year. No first-rounder makes it tough to plan for. Besides, Kenny Chesney will be getting set up, which takes up a significant portion of our event space. But I'll probably have some cold ones on the porch after the fact, if you want to swing by. The address is 1060 West Addison.

The Panthers are the only team that thinks as though the fans know every player, rookie, or vet, by seeing them in photos, be it at events or workouts/practices out of uniform. Why can't the organization put a caption under the photos of players? Example: The photos published April 9 of guys at the voluntary workout. Who the hell are they? Hey Panthers, WE DON'T KNOW MANY PLAYER FACES BECAUSE THEY ARE COVERED BY A FACEMASK DURING GAMES & PRACTICES. — Craig, Sherrills Ford, NC

Craig, you could always cross-reference with the roster we have on the website. Or, because you asked nicely (or something), you could send your correspondence to the bag if you have a specific question.

It's trickier during workouts when they're not wearing numbers, I concede that point. But that's a real issue with so many new faces, and I'll look into possible solutions (including hiring Craig as an intern). Mostly it's a manpower thing, as manually adding captions to over 100 photos each day is time-consuming and there's a lot going on.

When will the team release the top 30 visits, and can you provide us with any updates? Sidenote, who you got in the Final Four (men and women)? — Kayin, West Columbia, SC

Probably won't. They're not going to put all their business in the street, though a lot of it gets out there anyway (spoiler alert, it's a lot of receivers).

As for the Final Four, I'm going out on a limb with UConn and South Carolina. Ben McAdoo finally let me borrow the crystal ball he keeps in his other pants.

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