Panthers Expected to Franchise Kicker Graham Gano

The Panthers are more likely to place their franchise tag on Graham Gano, their kicker of six seasons whose four-year contract expired this year, than on guard Andrew Norwell, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reports via Jeremy Bergman of NFL.com.

The tag number for a kicker hovered around $4.8 million in 2017 and has climbed each year since 2012. Gano averaged a $3.1 million salary under his expired deal.

Teams don’t often use their franchise tag on kickers. Gano would be just the fourth kicker to earn the distinction since 2012, when five kickers were handed the tag. Most recently, the Baltimore Ravens tagged two-time All-Pro booter Justin Tucker in 2016; he signed a four-year deal soon after.

The 30-year-old Gano isn’t quite an All-Pro, but he is coming off a Pro Bowl season, his first, in which he connected on a league-best 96.7 percent of his field goal attempts.

Panthers Not Likely to Put the Franchise Tag on Guard Andrew Norwell

Tuesday is the first day NFL teams can apply the tag to players, a window that closes March 6 – about a week before the start of free agency.

Left guard Andrew Norwell is the biggest name among the Panthers’ 12 potential free agents, Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer reports.

Norwell, who joined the Panthers as an undrafted free agent in 2014, increased his value with an All-Pro season in 2017. Interim general manager Marty Hurney invested heavily at the guard position last summer when he signed Pro Bowler Trai Turner to a four-year, $45 million extension, with $20.5 million guaranteed.

The NFL does not distinguish between tackles and guards/centers when determining the tag value for offensive linemen, which this year is expected to be around $14.3 million.

Teams don’t typically use franchise tags on guards. Former Patriots lineman Logan Mankins was the last guard to be tagged when the Patriots did so in 2011, according to Joel Corry, a former NFL agent who now writes for cbssports.com.

Corry also doesn’t see the Panthers applying the tag to nose tackle Star Lotulelei or kicker Graham Gano, the two other most logical candidates.

Former Panthers GM Dave Gettleman infamously rescinded Josh Norman’s franchise tag in 2016, allowing the Pro Bowl cornerback to become a free agent. Norman signed a five-year, $75 million contract with Washington the same week.

The Panthers tagged defensive tackle Kawann Short last year, but ended up signing Short to a five-year, $80.5 million extension in April.

Lotulelei, the Panthers’ first-round pick in 2013 during Gettleman’s first draft in Charlotte, would cost Carolina around $14.2 million if they tagged him. Given what the Panthers are paying Short, they could allow Lotulelei to walk and give more playing time to Vernon Butler, their first-round pick in 2016.

Panthers Gab 2018 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Notre Dame G Quenton Nelson

While there’s plenty of stars in the 2018 NFL Draft in April, there’s also going to be one big-name player taking up space on the offensive line, and that’s Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson, who some say could be the second-best prospect in this year’s draft.

It didn’t take Nelson long to prove himself, as back when he was a redshirt freshmen it was reported that he had quite the mean streak, something that could prove him well when it gets drafted.

Here’s more on Nelson as we get you set for this year’s NFL Draft:

A quick Career Recap on Nelson from Walter Football:

Career Recap: Typically in an NFL draft, interior offensive linemen have a shot at going in the back half of the first round. An exception was the 2013 NFL Draft, which saw four guards get selected in the top 25 with two in the top 10. The 2017 NFL Draft was a rare year in the opposite fashion as no guards or centers were selected in the first round; the first guard didn’t come off the board until the 38th-overall pick when the Chargers took Forrest Lamp. A lot was made about the 2017 NFL Draft being weak at offensive tackle, but it was an odd year on the inside as there wasn’t a lot of interior talent either. One of the reasons for the lack of high-end talent was Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson deciding to return for his senior year.

If Nelson had declared for the 2017 NFL Draft, he would have been the top-rated guard and probably would have been a Thursday night selection. In this analyst’s opinion, Nelson is a much better prospect than Lamp. Over the past two seasons, Nelson has been an excellent guard for Notre Dame, making an impact as a blocker at the point of attack.

Nelson played well in 2015 in his first season as a starter, but he was dominant in 2016. He moved defenders at the point of attack in the ground game and was rock solid in pass protection.

Some Career Highlights from 2016:

Here’s a scouting report on Nelson from Fox Sports:

Quenton Nelson is a thick and powerful offensive line prospect. He’s the true definition of a road-grader thanks to his ability to move defenders off the line of scrimmage. Nelson is a perfect fit for a team looking to feature a power running game.

His dominance as a run blocker starts with his low pad level which he uses to help him roll his hips and deliver a jolt. That initial jolt is more effective because Nelson is committed to gaining inside hands. He then velcros to this target and generates a push.

Nelson’s heavy hands make it difficult for the defender to disengage and help him control the action. This is also a nasty player who plays to the whistle and wants to deliver punishment.

For his size, Nelson does a good job working off the initial block and climbing to the second level. He reaches linebackers under control and balanced. This helps him ensure that he doesn’t miss blocks or allow the linebacker to streak past him.

With the First Pick on what they See From Nelson:

Quenton Nelson isn’t a flashy player but is someone who gets the job done. He is one of the more physical players in the 2018 NFL Draft. It’s this physicality and his proper technique that make him an excellent run blocker.

Nelson is a beast in the trenches who can generate a push off the line of scrimmage. He is committed to gaining inside hands, maintaining a strong base and keeping his feet moving. His sound technique is one of the main reasons why he is so effective.

As a run blocker, Nelson doesn’t just use brute force to move defenders. He also has a good feel for angles and can seal the defender from the play. Nelson features enough athleticism to get out on the move and reach the 2nd level.
More from With the First Pick

However, there is some stiffness to his game which limits his overall range. Nelson’s size and bulk can result in some plotting movements. He just isn’t an overly explosive athlete which could hurt his overall versatility

Nelson grades out at 7.4 on NFL.com’s Draft Profile, here’s what they had to say about him:

Overview

Defensive linemen facing Nelson and Mike McGlinchey on the left side of the Irish’s line usually had a long day ahead of them. Nelson is a tough New Jersey kid who earned second-team USA Today All-American honors as a high school senior and was ranked in the top 50 overall recruits nationally as a guard. Notre Dame didn’t need him to suit up as a freshman, however, so he redshirted. Nelson got his chance in 2015, starting 11 of 12 games played at left guard (missing parts of two games with an ankle injury) next to 2016 first-round pick Ronnie Stanley. He and McGlinchey then manned the left side in all 12 games of the Irish’s disappointing 2016 season, though scouts weren’t disappointed with Nelson’s ability to move the line of scrimmage low and strong, as well as force defenders to the ground with regularity.

Analysis

Strengths Built like a bank safe with wide hips, broad chest and powerful limbs. Known for intimidating power. Rarely beaten by power alone. Comes out of the blocks with good pad level. Unlocks powerful hips into contact. Can forklift defenders out of the gap creating massive running lanes. Extremely aggressive at point of attack and isn’t happy until he is imposing his will. Premier double team blocker along with teammate Mike McGlinchey. Uses plus leg drive to cave-in down blocks. Moves laterally and in space with adequate fluidity. Works his feet and hips into position to keep blocks secured. Has core strength and body control to make rare recoveries when beaten. Field aware and able to adjust his assignment. Pass sets from desired posture with wide base and evenly distributed weight. Punch is compact and powerful. Fires hands like pistons and is almost always first into the frame with jolt and extension. Able to lock out rushers and maintain complete control with quality mirror through rep. Has hand strength to snatch and sustain in pass pro and run game.
Weaknesses Has a tendency to drop his head into contact in front of him. Will lose sight of his target and whiff against slanting, arm-over specialists. Was on the ground more than he should be against Wake Forest defensive tackles looking to shoot gaps. Has a slight hitch when coming out of his stance as a pull blocker. Lingers on secure blocks a fraction too long before moving up to linebackers. May have to expedite his pace against NFL defenses. Still room for improvement in pass protection and keeping athletic rushers centered. Has had some injury concerns over the years.

Panthers Gab 2018 NFL Draft Scouting Report: UCLA QB Josh Rosen

Some say that UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen is going to be the top pick in the draft since (per usual) the Browns have the top pick and (per usual) need a quarterback.

But then again they may let him slip, or go with another QB meaning that Rosen, who this last season threw for 3756 yards, 26 touchdowns and 10 picks will be free, and who knows what team could try to move up and draft the 21-year-old from Manhattan Beach, California.

Here’s a look at Rosen and what various places are saying about him.

NFL.com Scouting Report

Overview

One of the top recruits of the 2015 class, Rosen decided to stay close to home to play his ball in Westwood. He was a first-team USA Today All-American as a high school senior, throwing for 3,186 yards and 29 touchdowns while his St. John Bosco squad won the California State Championship. UCLA coaches saw enough of his talent in the spring of 2015 (he graduated from high school one semester early) that they made him the first Bruin freshman opening-weekend starter ever. He won Pac-12 Freshman of the Year and several Freshman All-American honors after setting several school records and completing 60 percent (292-487) of his passes for 3,668 yards and 23 touchdowns (11 interceptions). Despite being only a freshman, he was in command of the offense and used his NFL size and arm to sling the ball all over the field. Rosen’s sophomore season had its peaks (400 passing yards against Arizona State) and valleys (three interceptions vs. Texas A&M), and eventually ended with a season-ending injury to his throwing shoulder after six starts (59.3 completion percentage, 1,915 yards, 10 touchdowns, five interceptions). The surgery to his shoulder was not considered major, so he was throwing effectively in spring 2017 practices. Rosen had the performance of the year in the season’s opening weekend, leading the Bruins in an amazing 45-44 comeback win with 491 passing yards and four touchdowns. He struggled over a four-game stretch at the start of the Pac-12 season, throwing eight of his 10 interceptions on the year. He did earn second-team All-Pac-12 notice, however, by completing 62.6 percent of his passes (283-452), throwing 26 touchdowns, and ranking second in the country with 341.5 passing yards a game (3,756 total). Rosen also suffered two concussions during the year, missing one regular season contest and their bowl game against Kansas State.

Analysis

Strengths Tennis prodigy with impeccable footwork and delivery balance. Plays with excellent coordination between eyes and feet. Gets head around quickly on play-fakes. Has experience under center. Anchors in pocket and doesn’t creep around needlessly. Trusts his protection and doesn’t take eyes of targets when pressure mounts from the edge. Climbs pocket when appropriate. Willing to stand and deliver in face of pressure. Completed 63 percent of his passes when blitzed in 2017. Accuracy totals negatively impacted by 31 receiver drops this year. Holds his water in pocket. Mechanics are terrific. Rarely over-strides and throws with consistently bent front knee. Throwing motion and follow-through are effortless. Extremely confident and intelligent. Throws receivers open. Might be best back shoulder thrower in the game. Shows ability to speed up operation time for move to next level. Very good usage of shoulder fakes and hitches to move defenders or buy additional time for receivers to uncover. Touch passer who can throw feathers when needed.

Weaknesses

Durability is a concern. Carries slight build and has had injury issues dating back to high school. Carries ball low in pocket with slight upward pre-throw hitch. Too casual in pocket set-up. Decision making and post-snap reads are inconsistent. Refuses easy throws at times. Arm talent and strength are below average. May need to make greater effort to drive field and seam throws. Poor career deep ball completion rate. Excess air under ball allows challenges. Lacks gun to challenge safeties with rip throws over the top. Needs better anticipation. Poor mobility. Struggles to elude early pressure. Completed just 42.4 percent of his throws when forced to move. Too much hero ball. Extends plays and takes unnecessary chances rather than throwing it away. Scouts question his passion for football and whether he will be a willing student.

ESPN’s Take on Rosen

2017 stats: 283 of 452 passing (62.6 percent) for 3,756 yards, with 26 touchdowns, 10 interceptions; two rushing touchdowns, three lost fumbles; 67.1 Total QBR (No. 42 in FBS)

Who is this guy, and why should we care?

Rosen caught everyone’s attention with a 3,670-yard freshman season in 2015. NFL scouts love the way he looks in the pocket — his footwork, throwing motion, anticipation and accuracy. After an injury-plagued 2016 season, he rebounded in 2017 with numbers nearly identical to those he put up as a freshman. Injuries set in again, though, and with Chip Kelly and a new coaching staff on the way in, Rosen will enter the draft. He’s enough of a prospect to merit consideration at No. 1 overall.

Kiper’s draft ranking: No. 2 QB and No. 5 overall prospect. From Kiper’s Mock Draft 1.0: “Rosen is the top pure passer in this class. He looked better than Darnold when UCLA and USC played late in the season.”

McShay’s draft ranking: No. 1 QB and No. 1 overall prospect. From McShay’s Top 32: “Rosen is far superior [than Darnold] going through his progressions and has a pretty deep ball. He’s a better QB right now, but that doesn’t mean he will be down the line.”

NJ.com on Rosen

Josh Rosen should be the No. 1 pick in the draft. From a talent, acumen and film perspective, he’s the best in this year’s deep quarterback class.

If the Browns were smart, they’d take him and not look back. But there’s a reason the Browns are the Browns, and Rosen’s personality concerns are real. So as the rumors of Cleveland’s infatuation with Wyoming’s Josh Allen get louder, it seems increasingly likely Rosen won’t be their pick.

The measurables

No concerns with Rosen’s frame. He’s 6-4 and 218. He’ll likely pack on a few more pounds once he gets with an NFL strength and conditioning coach. But he has the height to see over the offensive line, and the weight to withstanding punishment from the defense.

The Stats

Unlike Sam Darnold, Rosen enjoyed his best statistical season this past year. Despite playing on an undermanned UCLA offense, he threw for 3,756 yards with 26 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He completed a career-high 62.6 percent of his passes, and had a quarterback rating of 147.0.

NFL Draft Diamonds

Overview

Rosen was the best Quarterback on the Bruins roster in the Spring of 2015 and was expected to fill in for 3-year starter Brett Hundley. Rosen would go on to have an impressive 2015 season going 245 pass attempts without an interception. As a freshman, he passed for 3,670 yards, 23 touchdowns, and completed 60 percent of his passes. He would go on to be named Pac-12 Freshman Offensive Player of the year, as well as earning Freshman All American honors. He would injure his shoulder the following year midway through the season as a sophomore and would go on to miss the remainder of the 2016 season. In 2017 he would go on to pass for 3717 yards and 26 touchdowns. The highlight of his 2017 season saw Rosen lead a 35 point comeback against Texas A&M.

Strengths

Rosen has the skill set to be a franchise Quarterback in the NFL. Rosen can be an accurate passer who can make throws in tight coverage and is poised in the pocket. Has a big arm. Throws a tight clean spiral. Has height to see over his offensive line. Has a good quick release on the ball. Can make strong and accurate throws on the run. Will take chances on some plays which can be a big trait in the NFL. Not very mobile but can keep plays alive by moving outside the pocket. Keeps his eyes down field even when under pressure.

Weaknesses

Struggles and hesitates when under pressure. Takes to many risks when under pressure. Is not a very consistent accurate passer. Can avoid pressure but not very quickly and relies too heavily on his offensive line to keep plays alive. Has questionable decision making that has led him to turning the ball over. Rosen needs to improve his vision for the NFL. He Suffered a shoulder injury his sophomore season that required him to miss the remainder of the 2016 season. One of his biggest weaknesses is his poor intangibles as a bad teammate and a leader.

Panthers Interim GM Marty Hurney Reinstated Following Investigation

Panthers interim general manager Marty Hurney was reinstated Friday after the NFL informed the team it found no evidence Hurney had violated its personal conduct policy, Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer reports.

The Panthers placed Hurney on paid administrative leave Feb. 4, two days after his ex-wife, Jeanne Hurney, unsuccessfully requested a temporary restraining order and alleged Marty Hurney harassed her. She then withdrew her complaint against him.

NFL investigator Lisa Friel interviewed Marty Hurney last week in Charlotte, and also spoke with Panthers officials.

Hurney remains the favorite to become the Panthers’ full-time GM for the second time in his career.

Panthers Gab 2018 NFL Draft Scouting Report: N.C.State DE Bradley Chubb

N.C. State defensive end Bradley Chubb is an impact player who many teams will have their eyes on when the NFL Draft takes center stage this offseason.

Touted as the best defensive player in the draft by many, he’s a talent that could make a huge impact on a team right away depending on where he ends up.

Here’s a look at Chubb and what various places are saying about him.

NFL Draft Diamonds

SCOUTING REPORT: BRADLEY CHUBB, DE. NC STATE

HEIGHT: 6’4”

WEIGHT: 275

PROS: Plays with a very high motor and does not quit on plays. Chubb also plays for 4 quarters and wears down O-lines for 60 minutes. Great team leader and displays an energy that teammates feed off. Displays lots of burst off the edge and can beat offensive lineman with techniques, both inside and out. Uses his hands well to get around the edge and has enough speed to get to mobile quarterbacks. Has really good size and long arms that he uses efficiently to get into the backfield and disrupt plays. He plays the run well and is a dominant presence on the edge against opposing running backs. 190 career tackles, 53 tackles for loss, 25 sacks, and a handful of forced fumbles make Chubb a statistical dream for the draft, and his play on the field backs it up. He should be a first-round prospect come April.

CONS: Has been known to get beat in run blocking and sometimes gets handled at the LOS against the run. His speed and energy also mean that he over-pursues at times and runs past the play. Coaches have asked him to drop into coverage in the past and, while adequate in those situations, his pass coverage is overshadowed by his abilities as a pass rusher. He is also a bit heavy at 275 and will likely need to shed a few pounds once he enters the league.


USA Today Draft Wire

One of the nation’s most dominant and disruptive defenders, Chubb has been a one-man wrecking crew for the Wolfpack, racking up 48 tackles for loss and 20.5 sacks over the past two seasons. Despite opposing offenses scheming to avoid him, Chubb has continued to put up huge numbers and make a seismic impact.

A tailor-made 4-3 defensive end, Chubb is one of the most complete prospects in this year’s draft class. Though there may be more athletic pass-rushers available this year, Chubb’s combination of power, technique and a physical playing style make him this year’s best edge defender.

A Story on NFL.com about Chubb

The scoop: “If you compare him to Derek Barnett, he has similar production but he is a much more explosive athlete. I think he is way ahead of (Boston College’s Harold) Landry as a pro prospect. — AFC scout on N.C. State DE Bradley Chubb

The skinny: I’m not sure why a comparison to the Philadelphia Eagles rookie defensive end was made for Bradley Chubb, but let’s dig in. Chubb (6-foot-4, 275 pounds, per school measurements) is bigger than Barnett (6-3, 259) and I would agree that Chubb is the better athlete. Barnett has better hands. Chubb is faster than Barnett and might be the best pass rusher in the 2018 class. I’m undecided on where I project him, but he will be drafted earlier than where Barnett, the 14th overall pick in 2017, went.

What Walter Football Says on Chubb

“Chubb is a quality defender against the run. He can hold his ground, at times, and has the ability to shed blocks to get in on tackles outside of his gap. However, he could use more strength in his base and needs to get better at shedding blocks that are coming downhill straight at him. That would help him against NFL offensive linemen. Chubb is good at getting upfield to knife through his gap and cause havoc in the backfield. For the passing-driven pro game, Chubb looks like a solid base end who would fit really well in a 4-3 defense. That is what he has played at N.C. State, and he has shown some versatility to move inside and rush as a tackle in obvious passing situations. He could continue that in the NFL. Right now, Chubb looks like a tweener for a 3-4 defense between a five-technique and outside linebacker. At this time of year, one never knows if listed measurements are accurate, and players can change their weight during the process, so that could be subject to change.”

Panthers Give Lake Dawson a Second Interview for GM Position

While the Panthers still aren’t on the verge of naming a full-time GM, Bills assistant college scouting director Lake Dawson has interviewed twice with the team, and is considered a strong candidate for the job, a source informed of the situation told Tom Pelissero of NFL Network.

Dawson, 46, has 24 years of experience as both an NFL receiver and in college and pro scouting. Prior to joining GM Brandon Beane’s staff in Buffalo, he worked as a scout for the Cleveland Browns and was the Tennessee Titans’ vice president of player personnel.

Texans assistant GM Jimmy Raye III and former Lions GM Martin Mayhew have interviewed for the Carolina GM position. Panthers interim general manager Marty Hurney, who was placed on paid leave by the team Tuesday amid an NFL investigation into harassment accusations made against him by his former wife, also was in the running for the job.

Panthers Interim GM Marty Hurney To Meet with NFL to Answer Harassment Claims

Panthers interim general manager Marty Hurney will meet with an NFL investigator Friday to answer his ex-wife’s claims of harassment, Steve Reed of the Associated Press reports.

Hurney’s attorney Kathleen Lucchesi said Hurney will meet with Lisa Friel, the NFL’s special counsel for investigations, in Charlotte. Hurney was placed on a paid administrative leave Wednesday by Carolina while the NFL investigates the matter, even though his ex-wife Jeannie Hurney has withdrawn her complaint.

Hurney is one of four men who have interviewed for the team’s full-time general manager position.

His current contract expires June 30.

Lucchesi told The Associated Press in an email that Hurney is “very upset” by the allegations “first, because they are not true, and second, because she made them at a time she and the rest of Charlotte knew Marty was interviewing for the GM job with the Panthers.”

Houston’s Jimmy Raye III, Buffalo’s Lake Dawson and San Francisco’s Martin Mayhew have also interviewed for the full-time GM position.

“He is hopeful that it won’t affect his consideration for the Panthers GM position,” Lucchesi said of Hurney.

Marty and Jeannie Hurney divorced in 2013.

Hurney remarried in 2016 and has a 14-month old child at home.

“Ms. Hurney has a history of making fictitious claims against Marty since they divorced,” Lucchesi said. “Even though Marty has remarried, Ms. Hurney has continued her baseless and malicious assault on Marty’s character. It’s unfortunate that Marty now has to deal with the fallout of Ms. Hurney’s vindictive conduct.”

Hurney remains in limbo while awaiting the outcome of the NFL investigation while the Panthers approach a busy offseason with free agency and the NFL draft looming.

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