Grill Bill: After not drafting one, what's the plan now at safety?

Rashaan Gaulden offseason workouts

Website submission from Simon in Kannapolis, NC: Hey Bill, I liked the draft haul, but I'm concerned about not drafting a safety. I don't see Da'Norris Searcy as a starter, so what's the alternative? The FA safety market was insane this year, but we made no moves. Are there any good options left?

Join the Twitter club on that concern. It certainly seemed to be the fan base's theme over the draft’s final two days, especially after the Panthers took a quarterback in the third round (more on that later).

Listen, if a safety they really liked fell to them, they would’ve ticked off that box. But it didn’t happen. And for what it’s worth, the staff was extremely pleased with how Rashaan Gaulden returned for offseason workouts. Oh, and he just happened to be a safety they took in the third round last year.

Clearly, we didn’t learn a lot about Gaulden last season. But remember, almost as soon as they drafted him, they warned it would take him a bit to make the transition from college nickel back to NFL safety. Now it sounds like he’s doing what he can to grab that spot next to Eric Reid.

To be clear, I’m not saying the answer is definitely on the roster. There are some interesting free agent options available, and general manager Marty Hurney made it clear roster building season is ongoing. But while it’s easy to look at this year’s draft as key to filling holes, in some ways, getting more out of last year’s draft class is even more critical. That means higher expectations for the likes of DJ Moore, Donte Jackson and Ian Thomas. It also requires Gaulden to show why he was worth a third-round pick.

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@PanthersAustria Any chance you are tired of safety questions and you sign a contract to play safety yourself?

You win the "any chance" question of the week award.

In all seriousness, I do get the external hand-wringing, especially when you're looking at facing Drew Brees and Matt Ryan twice and a potentially improved Jameis Winston under Bruce Arians. But there is time to find a solution next to Reid, and there's also hope an upgraded pass rush will create more havoc up front.

Unfortunately, I'm not an option considering I can't do anything involving sprints or bursts anymore without pulling a muscle.

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Website submission from Keith in Charlotte: Why would we waste a 3rd-round pick on a quarterback when we already have a franchise quarterback?

Plenty of you got upset at me last weekend for arguing for this, but I struggle to understand the uproar.

Well, I do in a way. It’s almost impossible to have cordial conversations when it comes to quarterbacks. But to me, this was easy.

The last time we saw Cam Newton, he was not well. Then he underwent his second shoulder procedure in the past three years. Obviously, the best case scenario is he returns to the Newton of old and Will Grier never sees the field unless it’s the preseason or mop-up duty.

I get it’s tough to stomach – passing on a position of need like safety for a guy who, hopefully, won’t play. But the Panthers had to at least try to improve their backup options at THE MOST IMPORTANT POSITION IN SPORTS.

Sure, Kyle Allen looked great against the Saints. But that was one game. It’s impossible to know if he'd be a dependable backup if the Panthers ever need one. You can say the same about Grier, and if you're somehow already convinced he won't be a good pro, OK. But I’m completely cool with throwing a quarterback dart at pick 100.

I also get the concern about how some in the fan base will react if/when Newton shows any signs of struggling while a draft pick sits on the bench. It's a shame a certain segment will continue to root for him to fail, but you can't let stuff like that affect a prudent football decision.

I usually avoid using quotes in this space, but few around the league offer as reasonable perspective as Greg Olsen. So if you don’t buy what I’m selling, here’s what he said when I asked him for his reaction to the Grier pick the other day:

“I don’t think anybody has any false sense of who our quarterback is. I think that’s pretty clear. But to get a young guy to develop – we’ve seen it happen with other teams. You never know what the future holds, and you see teams with star quarterbacks draft guys and develop them. You can never have enough good guys at an (important) position.”

Which Newton also understands:

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@alexpm90 Thanks as always for the great coverage. Do you see a role for Marquis Haynes this year? Or does drafting multiple EDGE signal that he is not likely to be in future plans?

Drafting Brian Burns and Christian Miller had little to do with Haynes. Last year’s fourth-round pick can play with his hand in the dirt, but his most natural fit is probably as an outside linebacker in an odd front. So he'll get a long look.

As the Panthers morph defensively, they're going to need a deep OLB rotation. That could mean, say, five spots on the roster. And that should give Haynes room to play his way on it again.

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@ShaneInPR I noticed Burns talking about learning from Pep in his presser. Is there a chance JP is around the team in some capacity this season?

Absolutely. I think there’s a desire from both sides to keep him involved in a variety of ways.

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@kevimartin1992 With the aggressive trade up for Little in R2 of the draft, what is the likelihood we see an offensive line this year of Little - Moton/Williams - Paradis - Turner - Moton/Williams?

I think anything else would qualify as a disappointment.

Little won’t be given the left tackle job, but you don’t make a move like that without hoping he’ll earn the gig by Week 1.

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@chrisrollins93 The Panthers have 18 OL on roster. How many will they keep? And will Daley be one of them?

They usually keep nine or 10 on the offensive line. Who knows how it’ll shake out by September, but they drafted Dennis Daley for a reason.

There are also reasons the South Carolina product lasted till the sixth round.

Still, if he can refine his technique, Daley has some intriguing potential. There’s some really impressive tape of him from this past season’s matchup with Clemson where time and time again he stonewalled Clelin Ferrell, the draft’s fourth overall pick.

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@youngandwrcklss Favorite underdog to make the 53 this year? Last year was Obada, this year is...?

Elijah Holyfield.

Yeah, his 4.78 40-yard dash at the combine likely sent him tumbling down draft boards, but the Panthers are thrilled they were able to land the rookie free agent. I usually try to temper expectations for undrafted guys. That this one has a recognizable name could lead to even more overexcitement. But Holyfield has a real shot to stick around.

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@peetree910 If the Number 2 pencil is the most used pencil in the world, why is it still number 2?

This made me laugh. But there is a reason.

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@tvisgreat Are we intentionally targeting ex-AAF players?

With a league-leading eight ex-AAF signings, it’s not really a well-kept secret, eh?

Not like they needed to keep it all that secretive.

Think about it this way: Instead of adding a dozen or so undrafted rookies, they signed guys who are in more immediate playing shape and who have more recent tape. Plus, now when they're running out that third-string offensive line in the preseason, they're using guys who are a little more seasoned, which will ideally give them a better chance to evaluate other parts of the offense.

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@CarolinaHuddle Do you admire Cersei or Daenerys more?

You can admire Cersei's scheming, but there's only one true khaleesi.

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@JerryHughes101 What are you looking forward to the most during the London visit, a cup of tea or a pint?

I only drink tea if I have a sore throat. So by process of elimination …

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Email from Aaron in England: Hi Bill, with the excellent news that we drafted Will Grier, this opens the door to introduce our American contingent to the masterpiece that is "Will Griggs on fire" a stadium song put together about a lower League soccer player in England. The adaptation has to be a matter of time! Will Grier's on 🔥, your defence is terrified!!

I wasn’t going to include this at first because the Grier stuff has already been blown out of proportion. But then I listened to the tune, and since it’s now stuck in my head, I’m going to try to put it in the rest of yours …

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