Panthers offseason
Teddy Bridgewater is an okay starting quarterback. While quarterback might not be on the top of the needs list for the Panthers, there’s a chance to improve. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)

The Carolina Panthers are heading into the 2021 offseason with the opportunity to be great. In 2020, they were a team that moved toward average in a way that showed improvement. Sure, their record of 5-11 didn’t change at all but it’s how the team performed beyond the wins and losses. Their defense took huge steps forward, going from being ranked 31st in points and 23rd overall in 2019 to 18th in both points and overall defense in 2020. Now the offense was only 24th in points and 21st in yards, and something should be done there.

Roster Needs: LB, DB, OT, TE

Offense
Panthers Offseason
Christian McCaffrey missed the majority of the 2020 season due to injury, his return will be the spark that this Carolina offense NEEDS. (JACOB KUPFERMAN / GETTY IMAGES)

In 2020, the offense of the Carolina Panthers regressed. As they move into the offseason, they need to make sure that this doesn’t happen again in 2021. McCaffrey only played in three games in 2020, making him basically a non-factor for the year. The addition of Teddy Bridgewater in the 2020 offseason was a fine move, but he’s more of a bridge quarterback and for more reasons than his name. He’s in the bottom third of starters, you’re fine if he’s your quarterback but you’re looking to upgrade.

The problem with the Bridgewater move is that the Panthers got the bridge before a developmental rookie. Maybe P.J. Walker can be the future? It is unlikely that the Panthers have the true franchise quarterback on the roster. As for the rest of the offense, wide receiver isn’t a position of need because of Robby Anderson emerging as a great option after leaving Adam Gase. It’s funny how that works isn’t it?

Offensive tackle is a need that should be addressed. Russell Okung is set to become an unrestricted free agent. If the Panthers wish to move on this offseason, the top tackles on the market are Trent Williams and Alejandro Villanueva.

Tight end is also an area where the Panthers could improve quite a bit this offseason. Hunter Henry from the Los Angeles Chargers is scheduled to become a free agent, and the Panthers should make a run at him.

If you want to get really ballsy at quarterback, the Panthers clearing cap space recently makes Deshaun Watson a very fun option via trade. Or maybe if they want a guy to sit and develop for a bit (Or they just can’t get Watson), trading up for Trey Lance would be interesting. Although he can’t start immediately, the bridge quarterback is there in Bridgewater.

Defense
Panthers offseason
Brian Burns and the Carolina defense need to continue to improve despite the loss of Luke Kuechly (Curtis Wilson)

The Carolina defense took some big steps forward this year. I already mentioned before the jump they took from 31st in points and 23rd overall to 18th in points and overall defense. The defense needs to become better in 2021 for the Panthers to take a jump, and that starts here in the offseason.

The team already cut ties with interior defensive linemen Kawann Short for salary cap reasons. Leonard Williams is scheduled to be a free agent, so Carolina can go that direction. As for linebackers, the loss of Luke Kuechly seemed to have a negative impact on Shaq Thompson’s play. Avery Williamson and Raekwon McMillan are some options in free agency but it’s overall a bad year for free agent linebackers.

Cornerback is also a position that the Panthers should look to upgrade when we enter free agency. There’s no shortage of intriguing options this offseason, with Richard Sherman, Patrick Peterson and William Jackson all being available.

The Carolina Panthers need this offseason to be good to make take a step forward. While the offense needs a few more pieces, that defense is improving and I’m excited to see them make some noise in the NFC South.

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