After a roller coaster season that ended withe a trip to the Divisional round of the playoffs despite a losing record, the Carolina Panthers have a lot of work to do this offseason.
Last year’s offseason had just about everything work against the Panthers. Long-time left tackle and protector of Cam Newton‘s blind-side, Jordan Gross, retired. Soon after, left guard, Travelle Wharton, also retired.
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Losing your left guard and tackle in the same offseason (particularly with a right-handed quarterback) is extremely difficult for any team to overcome. When you factor in the salary cap restraints Panthers general manager, David Gettleman, was faced with, it becomes nearly impossible.
In the same offseason, franchise-leading receiver, Steve Smith, was cut in what became a messy divorce with the team that drafted him in 2001. Not only was Smith on his way out, so was every other receiver that caught a pass in the 2013 season when Brandon LaFell left for New England, Ted Ginn shipped off to Arizona, and Domenik Hixon chose the Chicago Bears.
All of these changes meant that the Carolina Panthers had huge needs to fill on the offensive line and at the wide receiver position. Flash-forward to 2015 and it’s the same narrative.
The Panthers’ salary cap situation this offseason isn’t the best in the league, but it’s certainly better than it was a year ago. Currently, it’s projected to be around $14 million.
Many in the Charlotte area would love to see the Panthers go after a big-time wide receiver to be paired up with the young, soon-to-be star, Kelvin Benjamin. This has led to the hopeful whispers of the Green Bay Packer’s receiver, Randall Cobb.
Cobb is primarily a slot receiver, but he produces like a big-time outside wide receiver, evident by his 12 touchdown catches this past season. He also totaled 1,287 receiving yards. He finished the season ranked fourth in touchdown catches and 11th in receiving yards.
As impressive as his stats have been, Cobb’s most valuable asset doesn’t show up on stat sheets.
Randall Cobb is exceptionally good at improvising on a broken play. Time and time again, when Aaron Rodgers would be forced out the pocket, Cobb would find an open area and give his quarterback a target. Cobb’s ability to turn a typical throw-away into a 20-30 yard gain is one of the best in the league and something that you just can’t teach.
Unfortunately, it would be an absolute back-breaker from a financial perspective.
Cobb is expected to sign a deal worth roughly nine million dollars this offseason, but it could take much more than that to lure him out of Green Bay.
With the Panthers expected to have roughly $14 million in cap space and a projected $4.6 million to be used for draft picks, signing Cobb, even at nine million, would almost entirely deplete their remaining cap space.
This would mean that the offensive line and safety needs would have to be solved in the draft. While Gettleman has shown an eye for late-round talent, that’s a tall order to fill.
As perfect a fit as Randall Cobb would be, the Carolina Panthers need to fight the urge to go after the crafty receiver to ensure they can address their many, many needs.