New faces: C Matt Paradis, DT Gerald McCoy, DE/OLB Bruce Irvin, WR Chris Hogan, DE/OLB Brian Burns, OT Greg Little, QB Will Grier
They’re gone: C Ryan Kalil, DE Julius Peppers, LB Thomas Davis, WR Devin Funchess, OT Matt Kalil, OT Chris Clark, S Mike Adams
2019 snapshot: A year after changing ownership, the Panthers faced significant turnover brought on by a number of different factors. Franchise icons in Ryan Kalil and Peppers retired — Kalil later came out of retirement to sign with the Jets — while a third (Davis) was allowed to walk in free agency.
Paradis should be a nice replacement for Kalil — as long as his surgically repaired ankle holds up — and McCoy will help replace some of Peppers’ leadership while Burns and Irvin try to rev up the edge rush. The unit will look different for another reason as well, with Ron Rivera and D-coordinator Eric Washington employing more 3-4 looks.
In addition to Paradis up front, the Panthers added Little (second round), retained Daryl Williams on a friendly deal (one year, $6 million) and released Matt Kalil. Little is raw and has had his motor questioned, while Williams has struggled to stay healthy, but between the pair and Taylor Moton, the tackle position should be OK.
That’s important because Cam Newton hurt his foot at New England in the third game of the preseason while working his way back from shoulder surgery. Grier’s selection raised concerns about Newton, but all signs point to the former MVP being ready for the regular season. Before he was hurt in 2018, he thrived under new O-coordinator Norv Turner, so optimism is warranted if Newton is indeed healthy.
Get to know… WR DJ Moore.
With 55 catches as a rookie, Moore made his mark on the offense, but his contributions came in fits and starts. This summer he was looking like a player ready to thrive alongside Newton, with No. 1 receiver potential.
Worth the investment?
–Newton’s injury overshadowed how excellent the Panthers were when he was fully healthy last season. The possibility that Carolina returns to that form makes the over on a 7.5-win total extremely enticing.
–Even if Newton is fully healthy, what are the odds he’ll return to his 2015 MVP form? Bovada has them at +4000, on par with two Rams (Jared Goff and Aaron Donald), which feels a bit risky.
Bottom line: Carolina did well to address its biggest holes, though most of its moves still carried risk. The Panthers could thrive if everything clicks as planned.