Monday, July 25, 2011

Post-lockout football

The day is coming (perhaps as early as Monday), and once it begins, what will the Carolina Panthers do?
Of course, everybody has an opinion, so here's mine.
Sign, and then spend.
Sounds reckless, but it's true. The Panthers need to bring back DE Charles Johnson, RB DeAngelo Williams and LB James Anderson first (which is what they will likely be allowed to do). After that, target big ticket free agents that still have value. That;'s the catch. Finding the guys that are actually worth the rate and risk. Carolina has taken a two-year sabbatical on free agency, only bringing in 3rd and maybe 4th level guys in the past couple years (no doubt, looking down the road and seeing the current situation ahead of them back then).
Carolina's 2-14 record from a season ago, was due in large part to unproven, young players taking their lumps. There is talent there, but in order for those young guys to improve quickly, they need veteran leadership. I understand the notion of letting the kids grown up on their own, but you run the risk of continued lopsided losing seasons while waiting for that to happen.
Veterans last year would have helped immensely. Jimmy Clausen had no real mentor, and that's not a slight on Matt Moore. Moore was the elder statesman last season, with all 8 of his career starts at QB. Vet QB's came in when the ship was sinking (Brian St. Pierre, Keith Null), and they did a nice job of bucketing out some of the water, but not enough to turn things around.
Who are the free agents Carolina should target? Pick a position, and find the best guy. Carolina needs help in virtually every area. If the Panthers re-sign their own (the aforementioned players), they could get some help in the secondary (with the expected departure of CB Richard Marshall). They could also use some defensive line support (a veteran guy to show the young DT's the ropes), and perhaps a wide receiver to assist Steve Smith, or take Smith's place should he get traded (also a possibility).
Then there is the QB position. Jimmy Clausen is the incumbent starter, based on his experience last year. Cam Newton is the guy for the future. Who is their tutor? Given what the Panthers are likely going to invest in Newton, he needs a mentor on the roster. To me, the answer is simple.
Jake Delhomme.
Delhomme likely will be released by Cleveland, as the Browns won't be paying him back-up money now that they have settled in on Colt McCoy. Delhomme's best days under center are likely behind him, but is there a better guy out there, that the Panthers could bring in and be the team guy? Billy Volek would come to Charlotte, but he would likely be competing for the starting gig. Delhomme would compete as well, but he would also know that he is the 3rd guy. He would know that his job is to "Krash Davis" himself within the QB's (think Kevin Costner's character in "Bull Durham"). Teach them how to read NFL defenses, how to prepare, how to do all the little things. It's not glamorous, but he gets to keep coming to practice and getting paid to do it.
It's a thought, and to me it makes the most sense out of all the craziness that football fans have had to endure during this labor struggle.
Mike Solarte

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