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Grill Bill: Is linebacker back in play?

Website submission from Shane in Raleigh: Does the Thomas Davis suspension affect the draft strategy? I'm confident in Shaq Thompson being the heir to 58, but that leaves us with just David Mayo as a reliable backup for four games. With Davis' retirement (allegedly) on the horizon, do you see this pushing the timeline to grab another LB? Maybe in the 3rd? Thanks!

I’m surprised I haven’t seen more of this since the Davis news broke. Assumed there would be more folks hitting the panic button.

It’s not a ridiculous question, but I don’t think it’s a wrench in the plans they’ve been making for months. 

With their first four picks, the Panthers have to find guys who can make meaningful contributions in 2018. A third-round linebacker would be hard-pressed to do that even during Davis’ suspension.

If they’re going to add a linebacker, the soonest that should happen is Day Three. By then, you’re looking for the next A.J. Klein or David Mayo – someone who can help, but not a sure-fire starter for whenever the post-Davis days arrive.  


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Can’t see another in the first. Wouldn’t shock me if it happened as soon as the second.

If it were me, I’d tick off this box via those third-round picks. 

It'd be ideal if a back you like falls to you in the third. But if there’s a run on the position late in the second or early in the third, you may have to trade away one of those thirds to snag someone. 


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When have I said or written they’re not going to draft one? Surely not in last week’s column

Asked if I think the Panthers will draft a safety early, I replied: 

“Depends on what you consider early. If you mean at No. 24, I’ll say no. … I think there are only two safeties worth a top-25 pick in this draft. And Derwin James and Minkah Fitzpatrick aren’t making it to 24.” 

That’s why it’s worth sticking around till the end because you must have missed this: 

“Safety needs to be addressed sometime this draft.” 

The game of internet telephone doesn’t have to be that hard. 


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When they were researching Cockrell ahead of the 2014 draft, the Panthers did think Cockrell had nickel potential. But I imagine both parties now prefer he stays on the outside. I also imagine that, if they spend a first-round pick on a corner like Alexander, they’d want him to win the starting spot across from James Bradberry

In that hypothetical, I guess they could think about using Alexander inside and out like they did with Captain Munnerlyn in 2013. But it’s more likely nickel will come down to a battle between Munnerlyn, Kevon Seymour and Corn Elder


To be fair, he’s not 25. Yet. He’s 24 until August. 

I hear your concern, though. 

Teams obviously hope their first-round picks will play well enough to pick up fifth-year options. For Hurst, that would be his age-29 season. So, in a best-case scenario, he’s not getting a second contract until he’s 30. 

That’s not ideal, but if the Panthers think Hurst is good enough to help get Cam Newton that much closer to a Super Bowl win, I wouldn’t be shocked to see them downplay the age thing.


For these final few questions, try this concept on for size. 

LIGHTNING ROUND!

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It's more possible than likely, if that makes sense.


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</center>That's the plan/hope. 


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At the draft? Yup. 

ICYMI


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Have a feeling the football folks here wouldn’t be thrilled if I shared names no one is connecting them to.


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Steven is on the left. New wideout Jarius Wright on the right. 

Yeah, I can’t claim to be 100 percent sure. 


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C'mon, man.

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