Panthers expected to sign former Titans DL DaQuan Jones

The Carolina Panthers are expected to sign DT DaQuan Jones to a one-year deal.

Not only was it reported that free agent defensive tackle DaQuan Jones would have a visit with the Panthers on Tuesday, he’s already said to be likely to sign on the dotted line.

According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Jones is expected to sign a one-year deal with the Panthers:

Jones, 29, was a fourth-round pick of the Titans in 2014 and has spent his entire career there. A big body up front, Jones had three sacks last season in the middle of their defensive line. Since 2015, he’s held a starter spot with the Titans and in five of those six years he play in all 16 games.

Over the past two seasons, Jones was graded a 77.6 and 67.7 by Pro Football Focus, respectively.

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Panthers sign former BYU receiver Micah Simon

The Carolina Panthers have signed former BYU receiver Micah Simon.

The Carolina Panthers continue adding to their receiving corps.

According to Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network, the Panthers signed former BYU receiver Micah Simon.

Simon was unable to participate in BYU’s pro day in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic obliterated that chance. However, he was able to participate in BYU’s 2021 pro day with former quarterback Zach Wilson. Simon caught passes from the top quarterback prospect and also posted a reported 4.34 40-yard dash time.

The 6-1, 195-pound receiver caught 90 passes for 1,109 yards and five touchdowns in his four seasons with the Cougars. Simon even rushed 11 times for 54 yards and two touchdowns.

Simon’s best season with BYU was in 2019 when he caught 51 passes for 616 yards and two touchdowns in 13 games. The former Dallas (Texas) Bishop Dunne product also rushed five times for 47 yards and two touchdowns.

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Carolina Panthers 2021 free agency: One thing to like about every signing so far

Let’s take a look at one thing to like about each one the team has signed since the new league year.

The Panthers have been relatively active in free agency this offseason compared to years past. First, general manager Scott Fitterer cleared a bunch of cap room by restructuring several contracts and getting some dead weight off the books. Then, he started signing a series of low-cost players with the potential to pay off in 2021.

Let’s take a look at one thing to like about each one the team has signed since the new league year.

Analysis: Panthers score upgrade at middle linebacker with Denzel Perryman

Jeremy Fowler at ESPN reports the team is signing former Los Angeles Chargers linebacker Denzel Perryman.

He’s not Luke Kuechly, but he’ll certainly do. The Carolina Panthers are making their first big move in free agency this year after agreeing to terms with a a couple of offensive line duds during the legal tampering period.

Jeremy Fowler at ESPN reports the team is signing former Los Angeles Chargers linebacker Denzel Perryman.

Perryman isn’t a huge name like some of the other top defensive free agents like Richard Sherman. However, he does quality as a pretty significant upgrade at a position that was a point of need for the Panthers.

Jermaine Carter Jr. did a respectable-enough job at middle linebacker once Tahir Whitehead was finally benched last season. That said, Perryman has a far more impressive résumé, notably his skills around the ball.

https://twitter.com/SharpFootball/status/1163220106106810374

Carolina fans probably won’t spend all night howling at the moon over this signing, but it is worth at least a modest celebration. Perryman is a quality linebacker who should definitively improve a young defense that needs a little more experience.

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Carolina Panthers 2021 free agency primer: 4 questions as the legal tampering period begins

For the Carolina Panthers, it’s the beginning of a critical phase this offseason.

The NFL’s legal tampering period will begin in one hour, allowing teams and agents to “begin” negotiations ahead of the official start of free agency at 4:00 p.m. ET on Wednesday, March 17th. For the Carolina Panthers, it’s the beginning of a critical phase this offseason.

Not every position can be addressed in the draft and this team has several critical needs. They won’t have a ton of money to make a big splash signing, but after some shrewd cap moves they should have enough for a few mid-level deals to help round out their depth chart. Before the reports start coming in, let’s review where the team stands in regards to the salary cap, their own pending free agents, positions of need and potential targets.

Panthers potential 2021 free agent targets: OT Eric Fisher

Panthers potential 2021 free agent targets: Examining former Chiefs left tackle Eric Fisher.

We have our first truly shocking cuts of the 2021 NFL offseason. Today, the Chiefs have released both left tackle Eric Fisher and right tackle Mitchell Schwartz. The moves save Kansas City over $18 million in salary cap space and will likely put Patrick Mahomes’ scrambling ability to the test. They still have a pretty long Super Bowl window, though.

Schwartz is expected to retire after missing 10 games last season and undergoing back surgery. However, Fisher should get a ton of interest from around the league. The Panthers have a rather large hole to fill at left tackle, so they should be one of the teams who gives him a call.

Pros

It’s not every day that a former No. 1 overall pick becomes available and for good reason. Fisher has been among the league’s top offensive tackles since he was drafted in 2013 and is still going strong. Pro Football Focus gave him a high 80.0 overall grade last year. Fisher missed half of the 2019 season due to injury but aside from that he’s only sat out three other games in his career.

Cons

Fisher just turned 30 years old and he has already appeared in 117 regular season games plus several deep playoff runs. While he’s been relatively durable since entering the NFL, that’s still a lot of mileage. Fisher probably has several good years left, but it’s not unreasonable to assume that his game will begin to decline over the next couple of seasons.

Conclusion

While it’s tough to say what he can earn on the open market, Fisher’s cap number last year was over $15 million, which is a good place to begin negotiating. That’s tough to swing for a team that just invested $13.75 million in their right tackle and still needs to find a way to pay Curtis Samuel. Fisher would be a tremendous get, though. After Trent Williams he’s the best OL on the market this year.

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Panthers to franchise tag OT Taylor Moton

Carolina Panthers use franchise tag on offensive lineman Taylor Moton.

The Carolina Panthers will be using the franchise tag on offensive tackle Taylor Moton. That news come via ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Tuesday as the deadline to use the tag on players, league-wide, was set to pass at 4 p.m.

The tag will now give the Panthers and Moton more time to agree on a long-term extension. At minimal, Moton is locked up for the 2021 season under a salary cap figure of somewhere between $13.5-14 million, per Schefter.

Per Spotrac, prior to Moton being tagged, the Panthers would have $37.2M in salary cap space this offseason assuming the 2021 cap is $185M. Due to COVID-19 keeping fans out of stadiums last season, the cap number is going to fall from last year’s number of $198.2M. The league has yet to set the official cap number.

In 2020, Pro Football Focus graded Moton an 81.2 overall mark. That was good for the 13th best tackle in the NFL last season, according to the football analytics outlet.

The 26-year-old was a second-round pick of the Panthers in 2017. In four seasons, Moton has not missed a single game in his career to date, including the past three years, where he made 48-straight starts.

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Panthers potential 2021 free agent targets: TE Jared Cook

If they’re interested in a more experienced tight end it won’t get any better than Cook.

Today the Saints cut tight ends Jared Cook and Josh Hill, making a small dent in their considerable salary cap problem. (They’re still over $60 million in the red). In Cook’s case it was a procedural move as he was set to become a free agent in a couple weeks, anyway.

The Panthers could use some more firepower at this position. We’ve already looked at a couple of younger options like Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith. If they’re interested in a more experienced tight end it won’t get any better than Cook. Here’s why it might work.

Pros

Only a handful of tight ends around the NFL have been more productive the last several years than Cook. Since 2018, Pro Football Focus has him graded out as the sixth-best player at the position. That year with the Raiders he had a rare late-career breakout season, totaling 896 yards and six scores. After joining New Orleans in 2019, Cook posted another 80 catches, 1,209 yards and 16 touchdowns. Cook is also the only free agent tight end who would bring familiarity with the offensive scheme Joe Brady is running in Carolina. At this point in his career, signing him likely wouldn’t cost too much, either.

Cons

The obvious downside with Cook is his age. He will turn 34 years old next month and has been in the league since 2009, when the Titans drafted him in the third round. Since then he’s appeared in 178 regular season games. That’s a lot of mileage for any athlete, especially one with Cook’s size (6-foot-5, 254 pounds). Even if he’s a huge upgrade over Ian Thomas and Chris Manhertz as a receiver, he’s not really a long-term answer to this question.

Conclusion

Cook has always been the one veteran tight end we thought made the most sense for the Panthers to sign this year. Obviously, acquiring a guy like Henry or Smith would help more, but they can’t really afford to splurge at this spot given all their other roster needs. Assuming that his asking price is reasonable enough, Cook should fit like a glove.

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Panthers potential 2021 free agent targets: QB Jameis Winston

If Carolina is truly looking for a departure from current starter Teddy Bridgewater, it doesn’t get much more different than Winston’s game.

The Saints ignored the salary cap for 15 years and managed to stay competitive for most of that time. The bill has finally come due though and even after restructuring Drew Brees’ deal the team finds themselves some $69.5 million over the cap. That will make it extremely difficult for them to retain some of their pending free agents.

The Panthers could try to pick off guys like safety Marcus Williams or tight end Jared Cook, but the biggest potential prize is taking a chance on the potential of a former No. 1 overall pick. Jameis Winston spent the year as Brees’ backup and is about to hit the market if the Saints’ don’t re-sign him before the new league year.

Pros

If Carolina is truly looking for a departure from current starter Teddy Bridgewater, it doesn’t get much more different than Winston’s game. He can be erratic to say the least, but he has far more arm talent than Teddy (and most starters) and is capable of making some mind-blowing throws. In 2019 with the Bucs – his last as a QB1 – he led the NFL with 5,109 passing yards and also threw 33 touchdowns. Winston is not shy about testing defenses deep, averaging 12.6 yards gained per completion in his career. After spending a year in New Orleans with Brees and Sean Payton, Winston should also be familiar with the concepts that Joe Brady employs in his offense with the Panthers.

Cons

While Bridgewater’s fault lies in not being aggressive enough and frequently throwing short of the sticks, Winston goes too far the other direction, taking too many risks and forcing too many throws down the field into tight windows. Panthers fans should be as familiar as any fanbase outside Tampa with Winston’s issues. He also threw a league-high 30 picks in 2019 and has 88 in his career, 14 of them coming against Carolina.

Conclusion

It’s pretty tough to guess what Winston’s market value is right now. He signed with the Saints for a pittance but he’s clearly worth more than that, turnovers notwithstanding. One could see Winston signing another one-year deal for the veteran mininum or signing a massive contract that averages closer to $25 million a year. The Panthers should at least call his agent if Winston’s available in two weeks and they haven’t traded for another QB.

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Panthers potential 2021 free agent targets: CB Ronald Darby

A younger alternative Carolina should look at is Ronald Darby.

The Panthers were busy last week cutting long-time veterans and restructuring contracts to free up more salary cap space. After converting most of Matt Paradis’ 2021 salary into a signing bonus, they now have around $35-$36 million in cap room. That gives them enough cash to make at least one splash move in free agency, or more likely several mid-level deals to address the considerable number of holes on their roster.

One spot they’ll need to address this offseason is cornerback, where they got inconsistent-at-best play from everybody except Donte Jackson outside and Corn Elder in the slot. There are some very interesting names at cornerback who are about to hit the market – including Richard Sherman – however, most of them are on the wrong side of 30. A younger alternative Carolina should look at is Ronald Darby.

Pros

Darby (27) has had an up-and-down kind of career. He appears to be on the up-swing at the moment, though. He had a couple good years in Buffalo, followed by some injury-riddled ones in Philadelphia. He put together a strong 2020 campaign in Washington under Ron Rivera, suggesting with the right coaching he can still be a solid starting corner at this level. Darby played 96% of WFT’s defensive snaps. He only allowed one touchdown in coverage to go with an 81.0 passer rating and a 54.1% completion rate. Spotrac is projecting his market value to be a reasonable $9.2 million a year.

Cons

Consistent coverage is hard to come by. There’s a simple reason for that. It’s much, much, much easier to be Julio Jones trying to catch a football than it is to be someone trying to stop him from doing so. That’s why a defender like Tre Boston can go from indispensable to liability in just one season, or why Stephon Gilmore can get roasted by D.K. Metcalf after winning DPOY. In Darby’s case, it’s not difficult to imagine his coverage declining again soon. During the 2019 season (his last with the Eagles) he gave up six touchdowns and a 116.8 passer rating. His missed tackle rate is also a little concerning.

Conclusion

Darby is a name that won’t excite a lot of fans. He certainly doesn’t have the same starpower as a Sherman, Patrick Peterson or A.J. Bouye, who are also pending free agents. Darby has a solid mix of youth and experience, though and at anything under $10 million a season he might turn out to be a bargain.

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