Earlier this week, it was revealed that quarterback Cam Newton, wide receiver Damiere Byrd and defensive end Charles Johnson will be sidelined as a result of offseason surgeries.
Here's a look at how that news will impact the Panthers as the offseason moves forward.
Quarterback: Shoulder surgery will force Newton to miss OTAs and minicamp, but he'll be working hard to condition and rehab for training camp. He'll be active and involved with meetings and mental reps as the Panthers begin implementing an offensive plan for the 2017 season.
Backup quarterbacks Derek Anderson and Joe Webb have been through something like this before. Ahead of the 2014 season, when Newton underwent ankle surgery, Anderson and Webb were counted on for increased roles throughout the offseason practices. They have nine years of combined experience in Carolina, and everyone involved will feel comfortable with them in Newton's absence.
Wide receiver: As you might recall, Byrd was one of the top performers during minicamps and OTAs last time around. He carried that momentum into training camp and earned a spot on the original 53-man roster for the first time in his young career. Unfortunately, the 5-foot-9 speedster won't have the same opportunity to impress in 2017. But once he recovers from knee surgery, Byrd will get a chance to compete for the slot role – a position the Panthers are eager to highlight.
While Byrd is out, it obviously means more reps for others. Newcomers Russell Shepard and Charles Johnson will look to pick up the offense quickly. Brenton Bersin, Keyarris Garrett and Mose Frazier know they'll have to take advantage of every rep they get.
Defensive end:The Panthers have been careful not to overextend Johnson during practice for the past couple seasons. Now that the 11th-year veteran has undergone back surgery, he'll miss spring practices altogether. It's certainly not ideal, but Johnson is a worker, and he knows what it will take to get himself ready for another productive season.
A lingering question, especially after the Panthers elected to trade Kony Ealy to New England and Johnson's surgery, is will Carolina now take a harder look at defensive ends in the first or second round of the upcoming draft? It's a reasonable suggestion. But it's important to remember that general manager Dave Gettleman is going to thoroughly vet defensive linemen prior to each and every draft – regardless of what the Panthers depth chart looks like. In the NFL, it's often said you can never have too many pass rushers. Affecting opposing quarterbacks has always been a clearly stated priority for Gettleman, and there are several talented defensive ends that will no doubt draw interest as draft day approaches.