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Free agent negotiation period begins at noon


CHARLOTTE — Today, teams can start talking. And as usual, some deals will likely come fast and with big numbers attached.

At noon, the league's negotiation period begins for the year, allowing teams to begin the process of free agency officially. Deals can't become official until the start of the league year on Wednesday at 4 p.m., though there are generally reports of agreements before that time.

Free agency has generally declined in utility in recent years, as teams are more proactive about looking up players they want to keep out of the market in advance. This year, it's at one of its thinnest levels, with a few players expected to get rich in the coming hours but fewer top names changing teams.

As it pertains to the Panthers, a lot of the business they want to do will be with their own guys.

Offers have been made to center Bradley Bozeman and running back D'Onta Foreman, and they've had discussions with kicker Eddy Piñeiro as well.

The Panthers are in a position to be patient in certain areas, as they bring back most of their starters from last year (that math changed a bit with a switch to a 3-4 defense) and have already made plans for a few spots where they didn't.

With the reported trade for the top pick in this year's draft, the Panthers have the path to a new quarterback of their choosing, a deal which will also become official Wednesday at 4 p.m.

But entering free agency, there are still some issues to resolve, and here's a look at what they could do to fill some of them.

Bradley Bozeman

Another quarterback

While the chance to get to the top of the rookie class is something they clearly value, they still need a veteran on hand.

But when you trade for the No. 1 overall pick, those veterans know it could be a short-term assignment or an immediate backup role.

While former 49ers starter Jimmy Garoppolo's the top available name, the Panthers would likely be looking for a different grade of quarterback there.

Players such as Jacoby Brissett (who has a background with head coach Frank Reich from their Colts days), Sam Darnold, and Taylor Heinicke are among the veterans available who could fit the bill.

The only quarterbacks presently on the roster are Matt Corral and Jacob Eason, and they have a decision to make on restricted free agent PJ Walker. Teams have until 4 p.m. on Wednesday to tender their RFAs (a group that also includes Sam Franklin Jr. and Myles Hartsfield).

Jacoby Brissett

Filling in the gaps in a 3-4

As the Panthers adjust to a new defensive scheme, they could use some reinforcements at a few key spots.

Atop that list would be another pass-rusher to air with Brian Burns, and after playing in a 4-3 base in recent years, that might require going outside to find one. They have some younger options to play nose tackle (Marquan McCall played well in a limited role as a rookie last year) but could look for some experience there. They could also be on the hunt for more of a run-stopping defensive end.

Veteran Henry Anderson, who came in last year just before the start of the season, is an example of the type of player they'd likely be looking for to play end opposite Derrick Brown. The 31-year-old Anderson is among their unrestricted free agents, and there's potentially some interest in bringing him back.

Players such as defensive end Marquis Haynes Sr. and outside linebacker Frankie Luvu aren't standard size fits to play outside linebacker in a 3-4, but both have impressed their new coaches when they see the effort and intensity on tape. While new defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero is known for playing matchups and maximizing the talent on hand, they're still figuring out how to use the pieces in place. Luvu, in particular, has excelled in a variety of roles since coming here.

Bringing back Shaq Thompson on a reworked deal would seem to stabilize things at inside linebacker with him and Luvu, but the defense is still under construction up front.

Henry Anderson

Other needs

General manager Scott Fitterer mentioned a few other items on the list at the combine, specifically mentioning tight ends and safeties.

The Panthers will also be combing through a lean class of free agents at receiver, with DJ Moore a part of the deal with the Bears for the top pick.

And if Bozeman and Foreman find better offers elsewhere, the Panthers would have needs at those two positions immediately.

View photos of head coach Frank Reich and general manager Scott Fitterer from their press conferences and interviews with the media at the Combine on Wednesday.

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