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Roster analysis: What the moves mean, and what's still to come

James Campen, Matt Corral

CHARLOTTE — So the Panthers have a 53-man roster.

For now.

After the Panthers got through the initial wave of cuts to get to the regular season limit, a few trends emerged, and there were more than a few surprises to casual observers.

But it's also a group that was built with intent, even if they're not finished building it yet.

Here are some of the key takeaways from what's on hand after Tuesday's cuts and what could be coming next.

— Three is a magic number (of QBs, for now)

One thing seems obvious from the construction of this roster — it ain't finished yet.

But at the moment, second-year quarterback Matt Corral remains on the roster, a nod to the progress he showed this offseason after a rookie year laid waste by injury.

While a lot can happen between now and the opener in Atlanta, as it stands, Corral will take advantage of all of that coaching that was put here for Bryce Young and likely be the inactive third for as long as he's around.

There are no guarantees, and if injuries pop up or they make a lot of moves in the next few days, a third quarterback might become a luxury they can't afford. But at the moment, Corral gets to continue to take grad-level classes from a distinguished quarterback faculty, and he'll be better for it.

Bryce Young, Andy Dalton, Matt Corral

— They trust offensive line coach James Campen implicitly

The Panthers kept just eight offensive linemen, and three of them are rookies.

A year ago, they had all kinds of experience on the bench, with Cam Erving and Michael Jordan and Bradley Bozeman behind the opening week starting five.

If they leave the final preseason game's group alone (with Chandler Zavala starting at right guard), the backup linemen on the roster at the moment would be 2022 sixth-rounder Cade Mays and undrafted rookies Nash Jensen and Ricky Lee.

Lee's a raw talent, but he has a lot of talent. Jensen has played a lot of football (70 games at North Dakota State), but none of it in the NFL. Mays got some run as a part-time fullback in jumbo packages last year but only played a regular role for half a game when Austin Corbett went down in the finale with a torn ACL (he's now on reserve/PUP, meaning he'll miss at least the first four games).

They will likely be looking around for a veteran tackle to provide depth, but at this point, the backup tackle could also already be on the roster, as Brady Christensen and Mays have played tackle in the past.

We'll see what the coming days bring, but at the moment, this is a bet on the offensive line they have and the guy they have to groom them.

— That defensive line, on the other hand . . .

At the moment, the Panthers have five defensive linemen, two of whom are Nick Thurman and LaBryan Ray.

That may not be the case when they take the field in Atlanta a week from Sunday.

More than any group on the roster, this one figures to be the one in the most flux and the place they'll likely look for reinforcements on the waiver wire and among existing free-agent options.

They feel good with Derrick Brown and Shy Tuttle, and DeShawn Williams is a do-it-all lineman who continues to produce, but they need depth here, and if that came in a big body (length, not just width), all the better.

Derrick Brown

— They have a lot of tight ends

At the moment, they have five on the roster, which is more than anyone expected. But Stephen Sullivan has missed time lately with an injury, so it's possible he could be a candidate for injured reserve. Players can go there tomorrow and return later in the season, and that buys a needed roster spot for something else.

The big winner might be special teams coach Chris Tabor, who got to hang onto Giovanni Ricci.

The Panthers were running low on dedicated special teams players, and they still aren't wealthy in that area. But keeping Ricci gives them someone Tabor knows and trusts to anchor four units in the kicking game.

Chris Tabor

— Veteran backups need not apply

This is a new team with a new coaching staff and a new quarterback.

So, at the moment, they're looking at a lot of new backup options.

Whether it was Eric Rowe (who didn't make it in favor of Jammie Robinson), Deion Jones (bumped for Chandler Wooten, another special teams consideration), or Erving and Jordan and Justin McCray, or defensive end Henry Anderson, a lot of experienced backups didn't make it through this wave of transactions.

Again, there will be some turnover, and it's reasonable to expect some vets to make their way here (they're ninth in the waiver-claim order and figure to use that status). But there are also a number of young kids who will be counted on to play significant roles.

Other than cornerback Troy Hill, added before the final preseason game, there aren't many old guys who aren't in starting jobs.

— There are no sacred cows.

Teams seldom want to part ways with mid-round picks so soon, but there wasn't really a spot for linebacker Brandon Smith since he wasn't a regular contributor on special teams. So, the 2022 fourth-rounder is available to the rest of the league now. They took a flier on measurables on draft day last year, but that was a coach ago, and any benefit of familiarity didn't carry over.

— Still work to be done

This roster could use at least another defensive lineman and an offensive tackle. But that's not all.

There's clearly a need for another corner, but that's something they're saying in a lot of front offices across the league today.

The Panthers are also a little slight at running back, at least in terms of physical stature. A big back would be a nice complement to what they have on hand.

After an offseason of change, this is an interesting mix.

But you're left with the distinct impression it's far from finished, and there's still plenty of new on the way.

Check out headshots and action photos of the Panthers' initial 53-man roster this season.

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