Like all teams in the NFL, the Panthers are allowed a 90-man roster for the offseason that is eventually cut down to the final 53-man roster. Here’s a look at a possible 53-man roster/depth chart for the Panther’s 2013 season with cap calculations.
Defensive Line (DE/DT) 9 total
The four DE’s listed should make the cut. Mario Addison seems to be the incumbent 4th DE (besides that, there’s only 4 DEs under contract with published figures). The top 4 DTs will make the cut with the 5th spot open for competition. Fua is slotted as the 5th DT in my list simply for him being drafted and having the highest contract left, but he could easily be unseated by Linden Gaydosh (who Smitty has twice spoken highly of) or even Frank Kearse.
Linebackers (LB) 7 total
The 7 I chose also happen to be the highest paid LB contracts . The only player who might get cut is Jason Williams. He’s at the bottom of the LB depth chart and even missed our 53-man cut last year. He’ll have to battle for his spot in camp to stick as a special teams player.
Defensive Backs (S/CB) 9 total
This group is a wide open competition right now. Instead of taking the 9 highest paid DB’s here, I chose Norman and Campbell (10 & 11) over Jones and Dockery (8 & 9), and this only lowers the cap $86k. You can plug in nearly anyone on the bottom of the DB contracts and it really doesn’t change the numbers that much. This should be one of the highlight groups to watch during camp and preseason to see who earns their spot.
Offensive Line (C/G/T) 9 total
This group is pretty easy to figure out for 7 of the 9 spots. I put Jeff Byers in as the 8th, and Bruce Campbell as the 9th which conveniently represents the top 9 paid contracts of our o-line. The only thing that could change here is if Nate Chandler can push Bruce Campbell for the 4th tackle spot.
Quarterbacks (QB) 3 total
I know some are wondering why Clausen will make the roster — all but $3,000 of his contract is guaranteed. All three will make the roster.
Wide Receiver (WR) 6 total
The top 4 WR’s on this list shouldn’t be a shock to anyone; it’s the last 2 that can be debated. I went with Gettis and Adams strictly out of personal preference. Adams has 73% of his contract “guaranteed”, so he’s safe on my list. And with Gettis — I liked him in 2010, so I’m pulling for him. Armanti and Pilares have been made expendable by Kenjon Barner and Ted Ginn Jr, so I cut them from my list. But really, once you get past the top 4 WRs you’re talking very little change in cap hits. Should be a fun camp battle for the last 2 spots.
Tight End (TE) 3 total
If you look at what’s behind Greg Olsen on the depth chart, you won’t be very impressed. Ben Hartsock is exclusively a blocking TE, FB/TE Richie Brockel fits into the same category, and Nelson Rosario and Brandon Williams are still works in progress. That being said, we’ll have to see how things play out in training camp. I went with Olsen, Hartsock (the 2 highest contracts) and Brandon Williams for his upside as a catching/blocking TE.
Running Backs (RB/FB) 4 total
DWill, JStew and Kenjon Barner will round out the 3 running backs and Tolbert will be our “FB”. T. Poole and A. Smith will have to find a spot on the practice squad this year to stick around. A true full back that could make the team is UDFA Michael Zordich, he could also contribute to special teams. His highlights are impressive and if we plan to run more traditionally, it might be wise to find a spot for him.
Special Teams (K/P/LS) 3 total
J.J. Jansen has been a reliable long snapper since 2009. Our current kicker and punter are likely to retain their spots against UDFA competition, though neither have impressed the fan base (especially Nortman)
Since most of the highest paid players will make the team, most changes will happen near the bottom salaries (causing minor cap changes). Without any big FA moves, we should come out with almost $12 million in cap carry over to relieve next year’s dead money ($8.7M). 2014 is already scheduled to have $115.4M in cap hits hits + $8.7M in dead money ($124.1M total). This figure doesn’t include the large amount of FA’s that need to be resigned and the 6 future draft picks ($4-5M hit); so the more carry over the better.
What we can hope to see next year are restructures from Beason and Godfrey; if need be, Gettleman could also shift salary to bonus money by restructuring Olsen and CJ (lowers their cap hits). We are on a tight budget for the foreseeable future, but with a few solid drafts we should be able to undo the damage of the bad contracts of 2011.