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Saturday, March 8, 2008

Toefield, Jackson: FA Reaches Lukewarm

The Panthers signed LaBrandon Toefield, RB from the Jaguars, and Landon Johnson, LB from the Bengals, in a pair of signings designed to limit their draft needs and improve their veteran profile. Johnson signed a 3 year, $10 million deal; Toefield signed a one year, $640,000 deal.

Johnson (6'2, 232) was the Bengals' weakside and middle linebacker the last few years, moving around due to injury; he himself was healthy, stable, and solid for the Bengals, leading them in tackles three of four years. A 3rd round pick in 2004 from Purdue, the versatile and rangy Johnson will move back to WLB for the Panthers, and will expect to battle Na'il Diggs for the start. At this point, it's a fair ideal to expect Johnson to start at WLB, where he seems a natural upgrade from Diggs and a more stable choice than the oft-injured Diggs; it also adds speed to the lineup.

Diggs actually had a solid 2007; he was sent to the quarterback more, netting 3.5 sacks after 0 in 2006; a downside to the move is that the Panthers don't get any heavier up front, where they're already losing Kris Jenkins (a reported 390 lbs last year) and now downgrade a bit in height and size to Johnson at WLB. As well, it shows a bit of a lack of confidence in James Anderson, 2006 3rd round pick, to take over the job.

Toefield signed to be the Panthers' likely 2nd back after being stuck behind Pro Bowler Fred Taylor and phenom Maurice Jones-Drew. At 5'11, 235, he's the physical presence that the team's looking to change pace from Deangelo Williams; however, he hasn't been a healthy pro often and had injury concerns in college. Nonetheless, he's a quality back when healthy and adds a solid 2nd RB to keep the team from needing to spend a first or second round pick on a back: something Panther fans have seemed to grow toward feeling was a need despite issues on the lines.

Numerology Update: Numbers for Toefield and Jackson aren't up to date yet. Tyler Brayton was issued 96, and Nate Salley has changed to 25 from 33, though since I haven't seen Salley on the field in a year it's hard to remember if that is a recent change.
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