The Carolina Panthers are officially one year into the Matt Rhule era, and while their 5-11 record may not suggest it, things appear to be on the upswing.
The team cut Cam Newton last offseason and signed Teddy Bridgewater to a 3-year $63 million deal to lead the team under center.
He had his ups and downs in 2020 leading some to speculate that the franchise is not fully committed to Bridgewater as their quarterback of the future.
However, the fact that the team has brought in former Washington quarterback Dwayne Haskins for a workout suggests that if they have questions about Bridgewater, they are probably looking to free agency to answer them.
League source confirms that Dwayne Haskins is coming in for a free agent visit with the Panthers. @RapSheet first on it.
— Joe Person (@josephperson) January 9, 2021
There are several other needs that the Panthers must address in order to compete for a playoff spot, and they can look to this year’s draft to solve them.
The Panthers are loaded at wide receiver with DJ Moore and Robby Anderson who both had over 1,000 yards receiving this year.
Curtis Samuel had 851 receiving yards and another 200 on the ground. Pass catching on the outside is not a necessity.
However, another weapon on the inside wouldn’t hurt.
The leading receiver at tight end for the Panthers was Ian Thomas who caught 20 passes for 145 yards.
In Bridgewater’s first full season with the Minnesota Vikings, tight end Kyle Rudolph was his second most targeted receiver behind Stefon Diggs.
Bridgewater also relied heavily on Michael Thomas in his five starts with the Saints in 2019.
While he may not be a tight end, Thomas is a big possession receiver, which is much different than the speedy downfield threats that he currently has at his disposal.
Another security blanket could be beneficial for the Panthers offense.
Florida’s Kyle Pitts is considered the top tight end on the board and may be available when Carolina drafts at number eight.
Most valuable tight end in CFB (PFF wins above average):
▶️ Kyle Pitts, Florida (obviously) pic.twitter.com/CryhMkRnGI
— PFF College (@PFF_College) January 14, 2021
If they decide to go a different route in the first round, Penn State’s Pat Freiermuth and Miami’s Brevin Jordan may be available in the second round.
Regardless of when they draft a tight end, the Panthers should consider taking one early to give Bridgewater a safety net in the red zone.
Luke Keuchly was one of the best middle linebackers in the game, and the Panthers are still feeling the effects of his early retirement.
Carolina ranked somewhere between 13-19 in just about every major defensive category proving that their defense was very average at best.
Considering their youth on defense, this shouldn’t be considered a total defeat.
With that being said, replacing an all-time great is easier said than done.
If Penn State’s Micah Parsons is available at number 8, it is hard to imagine the Panthers passing up on him to pair with Shaq Thompson.
The best defensive player in CFB?
Micah Parsons Penn State Highlights pic.twitter.com/yEGQURwnOE
— (•_•)(•_•) (@comedy_motion) June 22, 2020
If he is not available, they may opt for Tulsa’s Zaven Collins or North Carolina’s Chazz Surratt in the second or third round.
A talented inside linebacker could take a team with a young defensive core to the next level.
Sacks were not necessarily a problem for the Carolina offense as they ranked 15th in total sacks allowed and 17th in sack percentage.
The offensive line wasn’t horrible in the run game either ranking 21st in rushing yards and 12th in rushing touchdowns.
However, it is hard to imagine the Panthers organization being satisfied with simply not being bad.
Teddy Bridgewater is scheduled to make $42 million over the next two years and all-world running back Christian McCaffrey is set to make $16 million a year through 2025.
With that much money invested in the backfield, it may be worth it for the Panthers to spend a significant draft pick on an offensive lineman.
Linebacker and tight end may be higher on the list of priorities than offensive line, so drafting one with the eighth pick may not be ideal.
There is a slew of offensive line talent that will be available from rounds 2-4, and adding depth at that position is never a bad idea.
Addressing these concerns could take a team that gets its star player back from injury from a bottom feeder to a playoff contender.NEXT: Frank Reich Comments On Top QB Prospect Anthony Richardson