Cam Newton Takes Part in 7-on-7 Drills

Panthers' Make a Wish child

In a surprise move, quarterback Cam Newton took part in 7-on-7 drills Thursday during the last practice session of the team’s minicamp according to Jonathan Jones of the Charlotte Observer.

Newton is recuperating from offseason ankle surgery and was not expected to take the field until training camp starts in late July. He has been begging for some football action, however, and head coach Ron Rivera finally gave in. “I think it shows everybody, the team, that he’s coming,” Rivera said. “Nobody expected him to be out here today, except for me, but it was good to see him out there. It was good to see his teammates see him out there.”

Newton’s teammates were surprised to see him on the field and his participation was not full. Understandably he looked rusty and Newton himself described his performance as “real sluggish”. “My mind was moving faster than my body but that comes with time,” Newton said. “I’m excited to get back out there. I’m not 100 percent yet but any progress is good progress for me.” Newton’s appearance was more symbolic than anything else but it is a good sign for Panthers fans. The franchise QB is expected to be 100% by training camp.

Panthers Ink 1st Round Pick Benjamin And 3rd Round Pick Turner

Carolina Panthers Rookie Minicamp

The Panthers announced they have signed first-round pick Kelvin Benjamin and third-round pick Trai Turner.

The Panthers selected Benjamin with the 28th overall pick after the 6-foot-5, 241-pound wide receiver produced a breakout season in 2013. Benjamin recorded 54 receptions for 1,011 yards and 15 touchdowns to help Florida State capture the national title.

“He has a lot of upside, and he gives us a legitimate chance to have a number one receiver,” general manager Dave Gettleman said. “He is a terrific kid. He has come a long way, and we are real excited to have him.”

The Panthers upgraded their offensive line with the selection of Turner, a physically imposing guard from Louisiana State.

“He gives us the power that we’re looking for,” Gettleman said. “He can displace defensive linemen. He’s a tough, nasty kid. He plays that way.”

Panthers Ink Second-Round DE Kony Ealy

Florida v Missouri

The Panthers have signed former Missouri defensive end and second-round pick Kony Ealy, Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer reports.

Terms of Ealy’s four-year deal were not disclosed. Atlanta Falcons cornerback Robert Alford received a four-year, $3.4 million deal last year as the 60th overall pick, which was where the Panthers took Ealy this year.

The Panthers have agreed to deals with four of their six draft picks. First-round pick Kelvin Benjamin, the former Florida State wide receiver, and guard Trai Turner, the third-rounder from LSU, remain unsigned.

Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman said he assigned a first-round grade to Ealy, who was an All-SEC selection last season after finishing with 9.5 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss.

Previewing the 2014 Carolina Panthers Schedule Release

Cam Newton

Cam Newton finally realized his potential in 2013, as the Carolina Panthers saved head coach Ron Rivera in a terrific 12-4 season that claimed the NFC South division and got the Panthers to the playoffs. Carolina lost all of their talent at wide receiver, however, and will have some issues to address before anyone can safely place them back in the post-season mix in 2014.

 

While the Panthers have some questions, their biggest concerns should be within their schedule, where they have a slew of tough opponents on the docket. They were stalwarts at home a year ago, but if they want to get anywhere near 7-1 on their own field again in 2014, they’ll need to go through the Bears, Lions, Browns, Steelers and defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks.

 

Carolina was even a solid 5-3 on the road in 2013, but the Carolina Panthers schedule away from home could prove to be a bit more difficult this season. Trying to get a win in Lambeau against the Packers could be especially tough, while dates with the Vikings, Eagles, Ravens and Bengals won’t be easy, either.

 

For a look at all team’s 2014 match-ups, click here.

Who Will Catch Passes For the Panthers Next Season?

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Written By: Florida Bengal

After one of the most successful seasons in franchise history, the Carolina Panthers have been largely quiet as other teams have picked them apart in free agency.

Safety Mike Mitchell went to the Steelers on Day 1 of free agency. Linebacker Jordan Senn is now a Bear. Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn has visits lined up with the VIkings, Jets and Buccaneers.

And then there are the wide receiver.

The Panthers released all-time leading receiver Steve Smith, who had 64 catches last year. Brandon LaFell (49 catches) is a free agent who is visiting the New England Patriots today. Ted Ginn (36 catches) is being courted by the Giants and Buccaneers among others. Domenik Hixon is now a member of the Chicago Bears.

Assuming that all of the players above do indeed depart, the Panthers’ most-established NFL receiver would be Toney Clemons, who signed with the team in January and has three career receptions (all of them in 2012 for the Jaguars). The most-established as a Panther would be Kealoha Pilares, who had two catches for 42 yards and a score with the team in 2012.

With all of that noted, who exactly could be lining up at wideout for the Panthers in 2014?

There’s always a chance that LaFell and/or Ginn don’t find what they want on the open market and return to the team. There’s also a belief that former Giant Hakeem Nicks could be headed back to his hometown of Charlotte, but he’s currently in Indianapolis visiting the Colts.

Tight end Greg Olsen led the team in catches a year ago and will remain a viable target, but he’ll need help on the outside. It will be interesting to see how the Panthers address this hole in the coming weeks.

Panthers Place Franchise Tag On DE Greg Hardy

Greg Hardy

The Panthers have used the franchise tag on defensive end Greg Hardy, Joseph Person and Jonathan Jones of the Charlotte Observer report.

Hardy was slated to be an unrestricted free agent on March 11. The tag will keep Hardy a Panther through the 2014 season.

According to a source, the tag will give the Panthers the ability to work with Hardy and his agent on a long-term deal with the team.

Hardy, 25, tied a franchise record with 15 sacks in 2013 and has 26 over the past two seasons.

“We are very pleased that Greg will be back with the Panthers next season,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said in the release. “He was a big reason we were able to lead the League in sacks last year and keeps our defensive line intact.”

Panthers Save Money, Pick Up Options On LB Thomas Davis

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The Panthers were bent on keeping linebacker Thomas Davis, and Pro Football Talk reports the team picked up his contract last week for both the 2014 and 2015 seasons.

The move will help the Cats, as PFT reported “Exercising the options gave Davis a $5 million bonus and Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer reports that the team added the extra years to spread out the cap hit as much as possible.”

Davis has had a tough stretch, as he played in just nine games from 2009 to 2011 due to three torn ACL’s.

The move puts Davis’ salary at the vet’s minimum of $950,000. It overall saves the Panthers $3.25 million for the 2014 season, which can go to another player that may need a new deal or a free agent the team may look at next month.

Munnerlyn Wants Back With Panthers; But So Carolina Being Quiet

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For the second offseason in a row, the Panthers seem to be slow-playing cornerback Captain Munnerlyn as free agency approaches, Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer reports.

Munnerlyn started every game in 2013 and had arguably his best season after signing a one-year, $1.1 million deal to return to the Panthers.

Munnerlyn made USA Today’s list as one of the league’s top 25 free agents, coming in at No. 23. The only other Panther on the list was defensive end Greg Hardy, who is USA Today’s second-ranked free agent (behind only New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham) after his 15-sack season.

But with general manager Dave Gettleman saying the Panthers will be cap-challenged for at least two more years, there has been little in the way of contract talks for Hardy or Munnerlyn.

“It’s been real quiet, which is shocking. I don’t know what’s going on. I’m just waiting. I guess they’re going to let everyone hit free agency,” Munnerlyn said in a phone interview Friday. “I don’t think they’ve talked to anybody, yet – not even Greg Hardy. That’s a shocker to me. I guess they’re going to see what the market value of people is and go from there.”

Munnerlyn believes the market will be more bullish for him that last year, when he turned down an initial, three-year deal from the Panthers but found no better offers elsewhere.

Munnerlyn, in his third year as a starter, returned two interceptions for touchdowns for the second consecutive season. And playing in a scheme that requires corners to be good tacklers, Munnerlyn missed three tackles in 932 regular-season snaps, according to Pro Football Focus.

Because of his size, the 5-foot-8 Munnerlyn remains best suited for the nickel spot, lined up against a slot receiver.

“I think I had one of my best years. And I think my market value will be a little bit better than last year,” Munnerlyn said. “I want to stay with the Carolina Panthers because that’s the team that drafted me (in the seventh round in 2009). I love the organization, and I feel that’s the best team that fits me personality-wise. I love the coaching staff. I want to stay there.”

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