It’s been a busy week for the Panthers. They put the franchise tag on defensive end Greg Hardy, they saw longtime stalwart at offensive tackle Jordan Gross retire, and there are now reports that Steve Smith is distrustful of GM Dave Gettleman. Naturally, Panthers fans have a lot of questions, and David Newton of ESPN.com addresses some of the most pertinent ones in a recent mailbag:
- Newton clears up some confusion regarding the team’s cap space. Despite earlier reports that the team was $28MM under the cap prior to franchising Hardy, Newton notes that the number was actually closer to $24MM. However, even if the Panthers cannot work out a long-term deal with Hardy, his $12.5MM cap hit will still give them enough room to retain some of their own free agents–like safety Mike Mitchell–and to pursue mid- to low-level free agents from other clubs.
- Newton believes Carolina will target an offensive tackle either in free agency or the draft–or perhaps both–but if they pursue a free agent, it will not be a high-priced one. And if the Panthers do, in fact, sign a tackle in free agency, that would make it much more likely that they would address their other top offensive priority–wide receiver–with their first round pick (No. 28 overall).
- Nonetheless, Newton notes that if the Panthers have to choose between wideout and offensive tackle with their first pick, they will likely go with the tackle, as the class of wide receivers in this year’s draft is very deep.
- Finally, Newton does not believe Travelle Wharton will be back with the club in 2014. He observes that Wharton was brought in last season because of injuries to younger players who are expected to be healthy this season, and he adds that cap issues will also play a part in precluding his return.