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Carolina Panthers

Recent restructures won't likely lead to a spending spree


CHARLOTTE — Yes, the Panthers created a considerable bit of salary cap room in the last few business days.

No, that shouldn't necessarily be interpreted as a sign of a pending spending splurge.

By working on the deals of right tackle Taylor Moton and linebacker Shaq Thompson, the Panthers afforded themselves some flexibility for the coming weeks, but they aren't in a position to afford the big-ticket items which will win the offseason.

The mood coming out of the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis last week was that the top end of free agency is going to get pricey, in a hurry, and that could cut all but the top teams (in terms of cap space, or ability to compete for titles immediately like the Rams) out of the herd.

General manager Scott Fitterer alluded to this when discussing pass-rusher Haason Reddick, who will be an unrestricted free agent next week. Reddick's coming off a pair of productive seasons, and should find a competitive market.

"Haason has earned the right to go out and see what he can get," Fitterer said in Indianapolis. "He's got two years in a row with double-digit sacks. He's going to command a lot of money on the market. I'm happy for him. We just want the dialogue to be open, give us a chance, and we'll see where it goes."

Reddick's not the only one.

Donte Jackson and Stephon Gilmore also play premium positions, and could find offers that lead the home-grown corners away from home.

And when the Panthers go looking for replacements, it's not likely to be the top-of-the-market names.

As enticing as it would be to sign Saints left tackle Terron Armstead and declare the line fixed, he's going to cost more money than they can reasonably spend, with other areas to cover.

The shopping list is longer than the pay stub at the moment, as the Panthers still need to find line help, someone to compete at quarterback, a safety, and depth on the defensive line and at linebacker. With still-limited funds and one pick in the first three rounds, it's possible that not all the spaces get filled at once.

And filling them won't be a quick fix, or the kind of thing that will fill the headlines of the national websites next Monday when the negotiating period opens.

That's not the kind of business they'll be doing.

The kinds of free agent guards who can upgrade this line aren't household names, but they don't need to be. The kinds of quarterbacks they can reasonably afford might not move the needle. Likewise, linebackers and safeties aren't going to create the kind of excitement fans are generally looking for this time of year.

That doesn't mean it's not important to have those pieces. It just means keeping expectations in line reduces the chances of disappointment.

If you want to talk about building, you have to be prepared for construction delays. But if you want to build something to last, there are no shortcuts, either.

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