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Archive for February 18th, 2012

The great Panthers lie

Common wisdom is that the Carolina Panthers are a young, up-and-coming team. This is a “truth” that the team like to claim and the tame local media is all too happy to present. There’s only one problem: It’s simply not true.

This past season, the highest-paid opening day starting line-up in the league. That’s something you’d expect of a veteran team, not an organization in the middle of a rebuilding job. And as we’ve previously noted, the Panther’s offense very much is a veteran bunch.

The NFL has a salary cap, and the Panthers as of now will have to make some significant moves to meet it. And yes, we’re one of only four teams over the cap and we’re over by about $10 million. And the Panthers still have a number of significant players from last year’s team that are either restricted or unrestricted free agents:

Jeremy Shockey, TE
Geoff Hangartner, OG
Dan Connor, MLB
Derek Anderson, QB
Legedu Naanee, WR
Antwan Applewhite, OLB
Jordan Senn, OLB
Mackenzy Bernadeau, OG
Geoff Schwartz, OT

Which is to say that the Panthers will have to spend more money to bring these players back and/or find replacements.

It all makes for an ugly combination — little available money + significant needs = a very narrow window for success. The Panthers almost certainly will have less talent in 2012 than they do now. They will have a hard time affording to resign Jeremy Shockey or Dan Connor. They won’t be able to sign many people for more than league minimum. And whatever players they cut to get down to the salary cap (Thomas Davis? Travelle Wharton? Jason Baker? Jimmy Clausen? Ben Hartsock?) creates more needs to be filled. The replacements would undoubtedly be paid less but they may also be not quite as good.

Could the Panthers make the playoffs next year? Yes, if everything broke their way but it would depend upon avoiding injuries and having their existing players get significantly better, especially on defense. More likely though is that the Panthers end up winning between six and nine games — being on the cusp of respectability and wondering what might of been had the Panthers not tied their money up as they did on questionable contracts this past year (see: Mare, O and Williams, D.) and been consistently unable to turn second, third, and fourth round picks into starters (see: most anyone the Panthers drafted in 2009).

Don’t expect the local media bring any of that up though. Might not endear themselves to the front office. Couldn’t let that happen.

Bonus observation: The new Panthers logo is lame.

Update: Oh look, the UPoR finally realizes that the Panthers are way over the salary cap.

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February 2012
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