Each year, the draft is an opportunity for all 32 teams to get better. While most in the organisations and their fans exit the weekend full of optimism over the future, not everyone is happy – those being the veterans already on the roster whose place on the team is now in danger. Here’s a few Panthers players who have been put on notice following their team’s choices. But first, a consideration for the long-term future of a couple stars, that obviously isn’t a factor this season specifically for the 53-man roster.
What does Butler’s selection mean for the future of Lotulelei and Short?
The Panthers began their draft by selecting the massive interior force that is Vernon Butler out of Louisiana Tech. This might not fill the most immediate of needs given that Carolina have one of the best starting duos at defensive tackle in the entire NFL in Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short. The former has been superb ever since being taken in the first round a number of years ago, while the latter had a breakout year in 2015 that included 11 sacks. The issue is that both were drafted the same year, and will command big money. We’ve already seen that Gettleman isn’t afraid to let big time players go if the money isn’t right, as with Josh Norman this off-season. Short is going to be signed up first, as his contract is up first (due to Star’s fifth year option being taken up), and negotiations are already well underway as per Ian Rapoport. Once he’s paid, they might struggle to also find enough in the budget for Lotulelei with all the many talented players on the roster. This always happens to successful teams; you can’t keep everyone. Butler will see reps in the rotation, and if he proves himself capable, as would be hoped for from such a high pick with his size and ability, they might be willing to let Star go and move forward with Short and the cheaper Butler.
Brenton Bersin & Stephen Hill, Wide Receivers
The Panthers didn’t add many players over the last two years via the draft, with just 5 picks in each. As a result, they don’t provide too many new threats to the veterans over draft weekend. However, they have found some quality undrafted free agents, in particular this year that could threaten some backups for a roster spot. A surprise to go unselected over the seven rounds, and subsequently a shrewd acquisition afterward by the Panthers, was Tulsa receiver Keyarris Garrett. After putting up some monster numbers in the Golden Hurricane’s pass happy offense that included 96 receptions for 1,588 yards, Garrett must have been extremely frustrated that it did not earn him a late round flyer from someone on day three. The simplicity of the system he came from and his rough route running skills factor in to that, but that production combined with his 6ft 3, 220 lb size gives him a lot of potential to make this roster, especially given the team and Cam Newton’s fondness for bigger targets in the pass game. If he adapts quickly to the step up and more complicated role that will be asked of him, then he can be a real threat to the likes of Bersin and Hill. Bersin fought hard over several years to make the team but his impact remains minimal, with just the 9 receptions last year, not helped that he also lost a fumble as one of those touches. Hill has never played up to his lofty second round selection by the New York Jets, missed last season with a torn ACL, and also had a marijuana citation during his time off. Both are vulnerable should a newcomer outplay them in pre-season. Garrett is one of those who could be the one, but watch out also for former Florida Atlantic playmaker Jenson Stoshak who is a great athlete with some polish and could surprise.
Scott Simonson, Tight End
Given that in the 9 games he featured in he only contributed 1 catch for 10 yards, it’s maybe not the most exciting battle, but Simonson’s place as the team’s third string tight end is not a lock, and he’ll face a battle in camp with late round draft pick Beau Sandland out of Montana State. The top two spots are inked in, with Greg Olsen and Ed Dickson to continue their roles. Sandland’s blocking is not up to scratch right now, but if he can improve during the pre-season, then he is a much more talented playmaker offering a lot more playmaking potential than Simonson does. And that is about it really! The Panthers have room for most of their veterans to stay, and the afore-mentioned few number of draft picks taken over the last couple years means there’s room on the depth chart for most of their more experienced players. The only three other selections they made in this week’s draft (out with Butler and Sandland) were three cornerbacks. The team was severely lacking at the position after Norman’s departure, and each of Bradberry, Worley and Sanchez will join Brandon Boykin, Robert McClain and Bene Benwikere safely on the roster.