Last week, Carolina Panthers general manager Marty Hurney and head coach Ron Rivera met with media ahead of this year’s NFL Draft. There weren’t any glaring shockers born of the press conference. The Panthers pass rush was less than stellar last season and, coupled with the retirement of Panther legend Julius Peppers, many fans expect the team to draft a defensive end when they are on the clock with the #16 pick on Thursday.
Not so fast. Hurney acknowledged the need for a pass rusher; however, he also mentioned other holes in the team’s personnel. In addition to the loss of Peppers, longtime center Ryan Kalil, Pro Bowl linebacker Thomas Davis, nickel Captain Munnerlyn, and safety Mike Adams are also absent from this year’s roster. Crippled by injuries, the offensive line has been an area of concern for the Panthers for the last couple of seasons and the need to provide protection for quarterback Cam Newton is of maximum importance. Both Hurney and Rivera expressed satisfaction with the team’s free agency moves. So much so, they feel that when the clock starts, they can take the best available player as opposed to being limited by position.
Then there comes the subject of trades. The Panthers have two third-round picks and could decide to use one of them to trade up for a must-have player. On the other hand, Hurney and Co. could decide to trade down to create more cap space. Last week the Panthers had the least amount of cap space in the entire NFL prompting the team to restructure linebacker Luke Kuechly’s deal. Kuehly’s restructure freed up $7.24 million for the 2019 season.