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?

olsen sock 5

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

thomas-davis

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

images

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.”

2014 NFL Free Agents – Panthers Have $11.6 Mil Of Cap Space

New York Jets v Carolina Panthers

Unrestricted Free Agents

Quarterbacks

Derek Anderson CAR
Jimmy Clausen CAR
Josh McCown CHI
Jordan Palmer CHI
Jon Kitna DAL
Shaun Hill DET
Matt Flynn GB
Chad Henne JAX
Josh Freeman MIN
Luke McCown NO
Curtis Painter NYG
David Garrard NYJ
Michael Vick PHI
Charlie Whitehurst SD
Tarvaris Jackson SEA
Colt McCoy SF
Kellen Clemens STL
Brady Quinn STL
Dan Orlovsky TB
Rusty Smith TEN
Rex Grossman WAS

Running backs

Rashard Mendenhall ARI
Bernard Scott BAL
Willis McGahee CLE
George Winn DAL
Knowshon Moreno DEN
Kahlil Bell GB
James Starks GB
Ray Graham HOU
Jonathan Grimes HOU
Deji Karim HOU
Chad Spann HOU
Ben Tate HOU
Ahmad Bradshaw IND
Donald Brown IND
Tashard Choice IND
Tauren Poole IND
Delone Carter JAX
Maurice Jones-Drew JAX
Toby Gerhart MIN
LeGarrette Blount NE
Andre Brown NYG
Peyton Hillis NYG
Darius Reynaud NYJ
Rashad Jennings OAK
Darren McFadden OAK
Jonathan Dwyer PIT
Felix Jones PIT
La’Rod Stephens-Howling PIT
Ronnie Brown SD
Anthony Dixon SF
Spencer Larsen TB
Brian Leonard TB
Jackie Battle TEN
Leon Washington TEN

Fullbacks

John Kuhn GB
Lex Hilliard NYJ
Chris Gronkowski SD
Michael Robinson SEA
Erik Lorig TB
Greg Jones TEN

Wide receivers

Andre Roberts ARI
Jacoby Jones BAL
Brandon Stokley BAL
Brandon Kaufman BUF
Ted Ginn CAR
Domenik Hixon CAR
Brandon LaFell CAR
Devin Hester CHI
Brandon Tate CIN
Andre Caldwell DEN
Eric Decker DEN
Kevin Ogletree DET
Micheal Spurlock DET
James Jones GB
Deion Branch IND
Darrius Heyward-Bey IND
Josh Lenz IND
Taylor Price JAX
Kyle Williams KC
Terrance Cooper KC
Chad Hall KC
Jerrell Jackson KC
Dexter McCluster KC
Marlon Moore MIA
Jerome Simpson MIN
Joe Webb MIN
Austin Collie NE
Julian Edelman NE
Robert Meachem NO
Louis Murphy NYG
Hakeem Nicks NYG
Julian Talley NYG
Josh Cribbs NYJ
Jacoby Ford OAK
Riley Cooper PHI
Jeremy Maclin PHI
Plaxico Burress PIT
Jerricho Cotchery PIT
Emmanuel Sanders PIT
Seyi Ajirotutu SD
Danario Alexander SD
Lavelle Hawkins SD
Arceto Clark SEA
Golden Tate SEA
Bryan Walters SEA
Anquan Boldin SF
Mario Manningham SF
Kassim Osgood SF
Adam Henry STL
Tiquan Underwood TB
Kenny Britt TEN
Marc Mariani TEN
Kevin Walter TEN
Damian Williams TEN
Dezmon Briscoe WAS
Josh Morgan WAS
Santana Moss WAS

Read the rest of this entry »

Luke Kuechly Grabs Defensive MVP Award

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Carolina Panthers

In just his second season, linebacker Luke Kuechly has reached heights imaginable. The 6’3″ middle linebacker was voted the most valuable player defensively. Kuechly won by just 1.5 votes — just beating out Colts defensive end Robert Mathis.

Other men in the voting were safety Earl Thomas, defensive end Robert Quinn, cornerback Richard Sherman, and defensive lineman J.J. Watt.

Kuechly finished the 2013 season with 156 tackles, two sacks, and four interceptions. The most memorable of his games came in week 16 when Kuechly recorded 24 tackles and one interception in an effort to defeat the New Orleans Saints.

To say Kuechly does not deserve the award could very well be an understatement. In just his second season, Kuechly became a captain and instantly helped contribute as the defense finished as one of the best. Not many can step in and do the job Kuechly did so early in their career.

Congratulations Luke Kuechly!

Brandon Sweeney is Co-Editor of the Gab Network. Follow him on Twitter @NFLNSTUFF, Like him on Facebook , add him to Google+, and Trust him on Sulia.

Panthers Ink Coach Ron Rivera To Three-Year Extension

Ron Rivera

The Panthers announced Ron Rivera has signed a contract extension that will make him the head coach of the Panthers through the 2017 season, Jonathan Jones of the Charlotte Observer reports.

This season, Rivera completed the third year of his initial four-year deal, and the Observer reported earlier this week the two sides would soon begin contract extension talks.

The Panthers, who went 6-10 and 7-9 in Rivera’s first two seasons, went 12-4 in 2013 and won the NFC South championship. They lost in the divisional round of the NFC playoffs to San Francisco, 23-10.

“The improvement of our team has been reflected in the progress of the record over the last three seasons under Ron and we look forward to building upon that foundation,” Panthers Owner/Founder Jerry Richardson said in a statement released by the team.

Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman said he had the “ultimate confidence” in Rivera in two separate interviews after the season ended when asked about Rivera’s status moving forward.

“I have been very clear about how much I have enjoyed living in Charlotte and working for this organization,” Rivera said in a statement. “I very much appreciate the support and confidence Mr. Richardson and Dave Gettleman have shown in me and our staff. Any success we have enjoyed is the result of a team effort by players, coaches, scouts and the entire organization, and our ultimate goal remains winning the Super Bowl.”

Write For Us