Rumored to be a trade option late preseason 2006, Donnie Edwards is set to become a free agent. Edwards, while not young at 33 (34 once the season starts), would fix a number of issues on the Panthers' D - run support gap control and short zone pass defense. As well, Edwards penciled in at weakside linebacker would fill a hole and give the team leadership, experience, and mentoring to Thomas Davis while strengthening the team in the event Dan Morgan is playing in 2007 - which ultimately means the team making lesser plans to succeed Morgan.
While Edwards isn't an ideal candidate for an inside linebacker role in the 4-3 because of his size, he could play the role, or more likely could make the calls and strengthen the front while a young player learns. If the team keeps Morgan, or replaces him with a lesser player, Edwards would fill the deficiency. However, at his age, a lucrative deal is always risky, and it's hard to see the team throwing around the amount of money Edwards was looking to receive last year in San Diego when the contract dispute arose, and chances are Edwards will look for at least that much. Edwards' last contract was 5 years, $18 million, and is expected to look for around $5 million/year.
Other WLB/MLB options for 2007
With Chris Draft and Na'il Diggs free agents in six days, to add to the team's decision on Morgan, the team basically must rebuild its linebackers from scratch this year, and while the mention of Edwards gets moved around, the team has a number of other options. Re-signing either Draft or Diggs, or both, remains an option, and the team could look toward the draft for a WLB or MLB. There are, nonetheless, options within the team that may prove beneficial, with enough faith in their ability.
James Anderson was a curious pick in the 2006 draft at the time; Carolina had already picked up Diggs and Keith Adams and had Draft to go with expected starters Morgan and Thomas Davis. Adding Adam Seward and Vinny Ciurciu in, the team had seven linebackers and speculation had Ciurciu not making the theoretical cut. Anderson, however, couldn't beat out Diggs for a start and only started two games. Looking very active late in the New Orleans game against Saints scrubs, Anderson showed little elsewhere and did not look good against the run, a problem for an active, small OLB. Nonetheless, by default, Anderson is the likely starter at WLB unless something else happens, and chances are, anything that happens will be competition, not replacement.
The team may or may not have soured on Seward in 2006; Seward had a very productive and strong preseason last year and rightfully earned the backup MLB slot. However, he struggled inside during the season and the run defense was woeful in the weeks Seward played during the regular season before, and Seward rarely played on defense afterward. A move back outside may be in order, where Seward's more natural athleticism may show, and if so, Seward may be fighting with James Anderson for the start.
The team does also have the option of moving Davis yet again, to WLB, and finding a suitable strongside player cheaply, but the team finds Davis a good fit strongside, like his playmaking and abilities on the side of the defense he's naturally been on, and the staff noted hating to move him the first time because of the learning process.