The Carolina Panthers have been relatively successful during their short period in the NFL. Coming in as an expansion franchise in 1995, they have made it to two Super Bowls, losing out to the New England Patriots in 2003 and then the Denver Broncos in 2015. Their 190-193-1 record is remarkably good for a team that entered the league as recently as they did, but the biggest marker of success is a Super Bowl, and they are yet to get their hands on one.
In 2018 the Panthers continued their trend of inconsistency with a 7-9 finish. They haven’t had back-to-back winning seasons in their history, a frustration to fans and players alike. Their 15-1 2015 season was the apex of the team so far, with Cam Newton claiming the MVP award, but since then the quarterback has been injury-hit and the roster quality has dipped a lot.
In Madden 19’s Franchise Mode the Panthers have an overall rating of 82, with a well-balanced 83 score on offense and 83 score on defense. This would suggest that there aren’t too many holes to fill for you if you want to win the Super Bowl, but it also shows an overall lack of depth. There are one or two exceptional players on the roster, like linebacker Luke Kuechly and running back Christian McCaffrey, but there is also a need to bring in a lot more talent if you want to compete at the top level of the NFL. Let’s start by looking at the salary cap situation for the Panthers and see how easy it will be to add players.
Carolina Panthers Salary Cap
The Panthers start Franchise Mode with a massive 67 players on their roster and have $45 million in cap space. This will increase when you cut the roster down to the regular season limit of 53. There are 21 players on the roster that can be cut without incurring a cap penalty, including poor players like 68 OVR Chris Clark and 70 OVR Fozzy Whittaker who can clear $1 million each.
Once you cut down you should have around $50 million in space, which is a very nice spot. This gives you the flexibility to hand out a big contract extension to a current player and make a big splash in free agency. You can also immediately go out and sign a free agent like Cliff Avril or Julius Thomas if you so wish.
Carolina Panthers Impending Free Agents
The Panthers have 31 players entering the final year of their contract when you start Franchise Mode. This is a lot, but most can be let go without too much worry as they are easily replaceable. There are some players that should be a priority to re-sign though.
The biggest impending free agent is outside linebacker Thomas Davis. He has been a vital part of the Panthers defensive success, but at 35 years old he is very much near the end of his career. Re-signing him may not be an option as regression hits hard at that age on Madden and he may well retire anyway, finding a replacement is the order of the day here rather than investing cap space strictly in him.
Elsewhere, right tackle Daryl Williams is about to hit free agency too. He is one of the Panthers best blockers, and with needs all over the line retaining Williams for one or two more years would be wise. Defensive end Julius Peppers will surely retire after the first season as he is 38, meaning his spot will become another big need in free agency.
Both starting safeties Mike Adams and Eric Reid are also free agents. Reid is just 26 years old and should be kept on, but Adams is yet another player ageing out of the NFL and will need replacing.
Other key free agents: Chandler Catanzaro (K), Kenjon Barner (HB), Ryan Kalil (C), Devin Funchess (WR)
Carolina Panthers Roster Needs
The Panthers are set at a number of positions. Cam Newton is a talented passer and good athlete too, making him a deadly quarterback in Madden 19. McCaffrey is excellent and Greg Olsen is also a brilliant tight end, but the rest of the offense certainly needs improving. The wide receiver depth chart is full of youthful energy but their route-running skills are not up to scratch. Finding a veteran to anchor that position would be wise.
The other place investment is needed is on the offensive line. This should be where you use your mid-round picks in the draft. Adding a new center to replace Ryan Kalil and finding an option at left tackle or left guard will be vital to improving the consistency of the offense.
Defensively the task is to replace the old players that are likely returning. Despite his age Julius Peppers is the best pass rusher on the Panthers roster, so a defensive end is much-needed. Davis should be easier to replace as solid outside linebackers are more common in drafts and free agency. As well as replacing Adams at free safety the Panthers could also use an elite option at cornerback.
There are several good edge rushers that could hit free agency after season 1. Jadeveon Clowney, Demarcus Lawrence, Brandon graham, Trey Flowers, and Frank Clark could all be available and if they are you should invest your cap space in one of them and then look to fill in the secondary gaps in the draft.
It will be tough to fill all these needs in one offseason, but if you can improve the offensive line and replace Peppers then you are in a good position, and if you strike gold in the draft with a cornerback or free safety too then you can create a roster that can not only challenge the New Orleans Saints for the NFC South title but push deep into the playoffs and just maybe claim their first Super Bowl.