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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

LBs not happy; Finally, A Visit

Doug Jolley isn't upset; Brian Simmons and Chris Draft were.

Draft, still unsigned, and Simmons, who expressed interest in Carolina, both came out recently as "disappointed" in the Panthers for not receiving offers. Simmons, a UNC alum, is a legitimate starter, having played nine years for the Bengals, and expected to be paid like a starter. Draft, meanwhile, started all 16 games for the Panthers, and is also looking for starter money.

Given the volatile nature of Dan Morgan's injury situation, that may not have been unwise; however, the team doesn't want to put starter money into insurance policies this year. Simmons can't play the weakside role; Draft can, but was better suited to the middle. The team seems more likely to draft a successor to Morgan this year than to force another veteran into the mix.

It seems as if there's contention as to whether Draft could've played the weakside role better than re-signed WLB Na'il Diggs, who has an injury history; Diggs is a good runstopper but lacks in coverage and blitzing. Draft tends to be more evenly skilled, showing some ability as a blitzer, but struggled playing the weakside position with Diggs injured.


Jolley, a five year veteran and former 2nd round pick, is coming to Charlotte for a visit, expected to meet with the team Wednesday. A 6'5, 250 lb. BYU product, Jolley is a solid starting option for the Panthers at TE. While Jolley dealt with injuries last year, his first four years splitting time had shown decent results: per year averages of 8 starts, 30 catches, 325 yards, 1.5 TDs. Jolley is a decent seam outlet and intermediate option, but not an elite goal line threat or deep threat. An average blocker and receiver, Jolley isn't a star, but is a better player than Kris Mangum, and likely a better player than Michael Gaines.

The tight end market is nearly dry, and the team has a hole there. There may be a bit more urgency to get what's left before it's all gone. Jolley's not a desperate option, but he's one of the last quality options available. He would also be one of a very small number of free agent tight ends signed under the John Fox era - Jermaine Wiggins (who's also available) and Freddie Jones being the only others of mention in five years.
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