Panthers Rumors

Panthers Waive WR Donte Moncrief

Weeks after claiming Donte Moncrief, the Panthers will send him back to the waiver wire. Carolina cut Moncrief and will replace him with another wide receiver — practice squad promotion Greg Dortch — providing another sign the veteran is running out of chances.

The Panthers became the second team this season to cut bait on the sixth-year receiver, following the Steelers’ lead. Pittsburgh benched the 6-foot-4 talent, despite giving him its No. 2 wideout job after the preseason, early in the year before waiving him in early November.

A former third-round pick, Moncrief did not catch a pass in three outings with the Panthers. He caught four for 18 yards as a Steeler. This represents a steep descent for the former Colts and Jaguars cog, who caught 48 passes for 668 yards and three touchdowns as a Jaguar last year. That prompted the Steelers to give him a two-year, $9MM deal. If no one claims Moncrief by Monday afternoon, he will be a free agent.

A 5-foot-7 rookie UDFA claimed by the Panthers in September, Dortch has played in one game with the Panthers. He served as Carolina’s return man in Week 9 against the Titans.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC South Injury Notes: Cappa, Little, Lindstrom, Logan

The Buccaneers will be without starting right guard Alex Cappa this week, according to Jenna Laine of ESPN. Cappa sustained an elbow injury in Tampa Bay’s game against the Jaguars this past Sunday. Head coach Bruce Arians removed Cappa from the game in hopes that the precaution could allow Cappa to play this week, but unfortunately the injury is just too severe.

Veteran offensive lineman Earl Watford is behind Cappa on the depth chart and is expected to start in his place against the Colts. A six-year veteran, Watford has played all across the line, but is primarily an interior lineman. An injury earlier in the year forced Watford to start in place of Cappa for two games, so this will not be entirely unfamiliar territory for Tampa’s o-line.

Here’s some more injury notes from the NFC South:

  • Panthers tackle Greg Little was ruled out for Sunday’s game against the Falcons with an ankle injury, per Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic. While Little was selected with the 37th pick in this year’s draft by Carolina to immediately jump into their rotation along the line, injuries have limited him to only four appearances on the season. Little can play either tackle spot, but was listed as the team’s top left tackle on the depth chart. Fellow rookie Dennis Daley will likely return to the starting lineup in his place.
  • Rookie offensive guard Chris Lindstrom will return to the field for the first time since Week 1 for the Falcons. According to D. Orlando Ledbetter of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Atlanta is activating Lindstrom from the injured reserve to start this week against the Panthers. The Falcons focused on solidifying their offensive line through the draft last offseason, selecting Lindstrom with the 14th overall pick and tackle Kaleb McGary later in the first round. Lindstrom, however, has been out since injuring his foot in the season opener and the offensive line has struggled mightily, allowing 38 sacks on the season.
  • Buccaneers running back T.J. Logan broke his thumb during practice and will be out for the remainder of the season, according to Rick Stroud of The Tampa Bay Times. Logan has played a couple dozen offensive snaps on the season, accruing 23 yards from scrimmage. His primary role though, is as the team’s punt and kickoff returner. This season, Logan averaged 9.5 yards per return on 13 punt returns and 20.8 yards per return on 13 kick returns. Jenna Laine of ESPN reports that Justin Watson and Sean Murphy-Bunting will share punt return duties while Dare Ogunbowale handles kick returns in Logan’s absence.

Greg Olsen Will Not Play Against Falcons

Panthers tight end Greg Olsen will not play this week against the Falcons while he recovers from a concussion, tweets Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic. Olsen left Carolina’s game last Sunday against Washington after linebacker Ryan Anderson delivered a helmet-to-helmet hit. Anderson was ejected from the game, but Olsen continues to suffer the consequences from the play.

Over his 13-year career, Olsen has been one of the best and most consistent receiving tight ends in the NFL. While injuries limited his production in 2017 and 2018, Olsen was in the middle of a resurgent season as one of the Panthers leading receivers. In his 12 starts, Olsen has amassed 48 receptions for 552 yards.

Young tight end Ian Thomas filled in for Olsen last Sunday and is expected to do the same this week. While Thomas has only made five catches on the season, he started for Olsen six times in 2018 and averaged nearly seven catches for 40 yards a game. Of course, that production was with Cam Newton at quarterback, so Thomas will need to develop a stronger rapport with current starter Kyle Allen.

Panthers Sticking With Kyle Allen

Changes have been aplenty recently in Carolina, but new Panthers offensive playcaller Scott Turner made clear there will not be a change at quarterback, according to Max Henson of the Panthers team website. While Kyle Allen has been the team’s replacement for injured star Cam Newton, recent struggles led some to call for rookie Will Grier.

Allen, signed as an undrafted free agent out of Houston, served as Carolina’s backup in his rookie season and was thrust into action after Newton was forced to rest a painful foot injury. At first, Allen looked like a potential star, leading Carolina to four straight victories while throwing 7 touchdowns and no interceptions. The team is just 1-5 since, however, and Allen has thrown more interceptions (10) than touchdowns (8).

The future of the Panthers quarterback position remains one of the biggest offseason questions in the league. Newton’s contract allows the team to trade or release him and save over $19MM in cap space. However, he remains the best quarterback in their franchise’s history and is not very far removed from being one of the best players in the NFL. He would immediately become one of the most intriguing players on the trade market or as a free agent (if the team released him).

If the Panthers believe Allen is a legitimate franchise quarterback, his extremely team-friendly contract could allow the team to recoup draft capital for Newton while using the cap savings to sure up other positions. Who’s decision that will be remains unclear. After firing head coach Ron Rivera, new ownership, led by David Tepper, will likely want the next head coach involved in making that decision. By sticking with Allen, it will give the Panthers organization-and whoever joins them-a greater chance to evaluate his prospects.

Minor NFL Transactions: 12/5/19

Today’s minor moves:

Carolina Panthers

Jacksonville Jaguars

Miami Dolphins

Latest On Panthers’ Plans, Ron Rivera

Some personnel executives around the league and on the NFL periphery believed David Tepper would make changes after last season, and Yahoo.com’s Charles Robinson notes GM candidates were viewing the Panthers as a job that would be open earlier this year. Tepper opted against firing Ron Rivera and second-stint GM Marty Hurney after last season but was discussing over the summer plans to revamp the organization, beefing up its analytics commitment, Robinson adds. Tepper confirmed Tuesday he plans to hire an assistant GM, and Robinson adds the second-year owner is expected to bring in multiple high-ranking execs to contribute to the operation. In the wake of Rivera’s ouster, Hurney’s future with the team is obviously uncertain. New scouts are expected to be brought aboard soon as well, though Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk notes no scouts or execs were fired along with Rivera on Tuesday.

Here is the latest out of Carolina, coming off the firing of a two-time coach of the year.

  • Having been run by defensive coaches throughout their 25-year history — from Dom Capers to George Seifert to John Fox to Rivera — the Panthers are expected to pursue an offensive-minded leader, David Newton of ESPN.com writes. Tepper may not be leaning toward hiring a college coach. Although he’s not dead-set against it, Newton adds the tougher transition for those coaches points to Tepper leaning in another direction. The Panthers are expected to pursue a younger coach who will support analytics more than Rivera did, per Newton. That’s certainly not dissimilar to how most of the HC-needy teams proceeded during this year’s hiring period.
  • Rivera broke the news to the coaching staff he had been fired, Albert Breer of SI.com tweets. Although Tepper praised Norv Turner and his son Scott, it’s certainly possible the organization moves on from the father-son tandem after their two-year run in Charlotte. Norv Turner will move from Carolina’s offensive coordinator to special assistant to the head coach, with Scott set for a four-game run as the team’s OC.
  • The most famous player Rivera coached expressed his support for the only NFL HC he’s known (Twitter link). Cam Newton, who will undergo surgery to repair his foot injury, is not certain to be back with the Panthers in 2020. One year remains on his contract.
  • Rivera revealed he wants to stay in coaching. The former Bears linebacker has been on an NFL sideline in each season since 1997.

Ron Rivera Plans To Continue Coaching

Ron Rivera is out as the coach of the Panthers, but he’s not done with the NFL. The well-respected defensive guru told reporters that he “absolutely” plans to continue on the sidelines.

[RELATED: Panthers Fire Ron Rivera]

Get ready for the next chapter,” Rivera said. “I’m kind of excited.”

Rivera figures to be one of the more sought-after coaching candidates of the offseason. At least, for the teams who are not dead-set on younger coaches of the Sean McVay mold. And, even though Rivera could comfortably retire at this stage, he’s still itching to achieve his ultimate dream of winning a Super Bowl.

In eight-plus seasons, Rivera coached the Panthers to a 76-63-1 regular season record, a 3-4 playoff record, and, most notably, a Super Bowl appearance. One can only help but wonder how things would have played out this year if the Panthers – and quarterback Cam Newtonmanaged to stay healthy.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Panthers’ Cam Newton To Undergo Surgery

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton will undergo foot surgery, according to Tiffany Blackmon of NFL.com (on Twitter). The operation will completely rule Newton out for the remainder of the year, though he was unlikely to return from injured reserve even before the news. 

[RELATED: Panthers Fire Ron Rivera]

The surgery to repair his Lisfranc injury has a recovery time table of 8-10 weeks, typically. At worst, it’ll take three months for Newton to bounce back.

In theory, Newton could have held off on surgery to leave the door open for a playoff return. But, at 5-7, the Panthers have less than a 1% chance of reaching the postseason. Kyle Allen figures to handle starting duties the rest of the way, with serious question marks about what the Panthers will do under center in 2020.

With $18.6MM owed to him in 2020, plus a $2MM option bonus, Newton seems unlikely to return. That’s particularly true after Tuesday’s firing of head coach Ron Rivera – the Panthers seem prepared to start fresh.

Meanwhile, Allen is making just $495K this year and will be an exclusive rights free agent in 2020 and 2021. After that, he’ll be an RFA for 2022. The Panthers could extend Allen at any time, or leave things as-is and have a starting quarterback at a dirt cheap rate.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFL Workout Updates: 12/3/19

Today’s notes from the workout/visit circuit:

Arizona Cardinals

Carolina Panthers

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Houston Texans

Jacksonville Jaguars

New Orleans Saints

New York Jets

Tennessee Titans

Panthers Owner Discusses Coaching Change, Front Office, Future

Panthers owner David Tepper was forced to make a difficult decision today, firing long-term coach Ron Rivera. Since Tepper took over ownership of the organization in 2018, he’s had Rivera on the sideline. Now, the team will turn a page and start hunting for their next head coach.

Secondary coach Perry Fewell will serve as the Panthers head coach on an interim basis. The shakeup also will see offensive coordinator Norv Turner transition to special assistant to the head coach as quarterbacks coach Scott Turner moves to offensive coordinator. When it comes to the front office, GM Marty Hurney will keep his job, but Tepper revealed that he’ll be searching for an assistant general manager and/or a vice president of football operations.

Tepper sat down with Bill Voth of Panthers.com (Twitter link) this afternoon to discuss the coaching change, the owner’s outlook for the organization, and the team’s future shuffling of the front office. We’ve snagged all of the notable soundbites below:

On why he decided to fire Ron Rivera:

“[It was] a very hard move. Ron Rivera, besides being a good coach, is one of the finest men I’ve ever met in my life.

“Look, I came here two years ago. I wanted to show patience on the football side to see how it was going. On the business side, we made vast and sweeping changes. I didn’t want to make those vast and sweeping changes on the football side. I wanted to take time and patience to see how it could go.

“I just thought it was time, given the way things have gone the last two seasons, to put my stamp on the organization on the football side, as we’ve done on the business side of the organization. As much respect as I have for Ron, I think a change was appropriate to build things the way I want things to be built.”

On why the move was made now instead of after the season:

“There are competitive reasons why I wanted to make sure we were out there looking at all personnel possible for the future. I didn’t want to be having inquiries where Ron didn’t know what I was doing.

“I didn’t want to be doing things not upfront; thats not who I am. So I’d rather be straight-up and honest, and if I’m going to make a change, I’m going to make a change. And not to get a competitive disadvantage over other teams; if I need to talk to people, i want to talk to them, and I want to do it in a straight-forward, honest way.”

On why Fewell was chosen as the interim head coach:

“I have different coaches on the staff and I’m looking at the future now. And the future is: who may I have as potential candidates for different roles. Perry is a person who can command a room, can be a general, and I think that he is the right person to have that interim role… and to be auditioning for that role in the future.

“As far as the other choice we’ll probably make is to make Scott Turner a play-call offensive coordinator. In that respect, same thing: I want to see what Scott can do. Again, in an audition sort of way, see how he does it. He has some new ideas, and we’ll see how they get implemented.”

On the decision to move Norv Turner from offensive coordinator to special assistant to the head coach:

“Norv Turner is obviously still a tremendously knowledgable coach who I respect a lot. Norv has been around and is very knowledgable. Scott is potentially a future offensive coordinator of some sort. Why not see what he has to offer here.”

On what he’ll be looking for in a new head coach:

“What I want, just for the organization in general, is a mesh of old and new. Old football discipline. Modern processes, modern analytics, statistics, and the rest of that. But I respect old discipline, too. Listen, I was with a team in Pittsburgh that was the epitome of old-school discipline, so I want to see that brought in, I want to see that mesh. And what I want to have more than anything…I want to put the best people in the best positions to be successful. And I want those coaches to put our players on the field in the best positions to be successful, period.

“This whole process – they don’t build Rome in a day. People think if I make a magic change today, it’s going to make the organization better tomorrow… it is not. This is going to be a process.”

On how an assistant GM can help the front office:

“Marty Hurney is one of the best recognizers of college talent in the nation. I don’t want to lose that. And he’s also not a bad manager. There’s also new processes that I want to bring in. I think the modern football organization needs a couple people there [in the front office].”

On what today’s move means for the future of the organization:

“As far as a process is concerned, it’s the first step in a process. I’m making sure we have a standard of excellence on all sides of this business.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.