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Monday, April 12, 2010

Francisco, Signed; Special Teams Uprising

Aaron Francisco (6'2, 215, BYU, born in Hawaii) was signed by Carolina today, giving them three of the top special teams tacklers in the league. Francisco, a four year Arizona Cardinal (undrafted), moved to the Indianapolis Colts last year.

Darin Gantt astutely noted that Francisco was a member of the losing Super Bowl team each of the last two years. Unfortunately, losing wasn't the only problem Francisco had - he gave up the game winning TD, and became somewhat notorious for being on the wrong end of a malicious James Harrison penalty:

But, just as Tyler Brayton's groin shot against Jerramy Stevens doesn't make him a bad character player, Francisco taking a cheap shot from a Defensive Player Of The Year doesn't make him a slouch.

Francisco was special teams captain in 2007 and 2008 before leaving the Cardinals. A top gunner, Francisco adds a cerebral, leading role to the 2010 Panthers special teams unit that has added the league's leading ST tackler over the last four years (the Jets' Wallace Wright) and San Francisco's special teams ace (Marcus Hudson).

The team also added kickoff specialist Todd Carter, a rookie from Grand Valley State. Carter has a lot of leg, but isn't likely considered a threat of any sort to John Kasay. It's unsure whether

The massive focus on special teams in the offseason so far begs the question as to whether the gaping hole need at WR might come with a return specialist ability, as well.

It was expected that the team would've ended up drafting a special teamer like Francisco at safety, and probably still will add a special teamer at LB (if not two, one an Inside and one an Outside Linebacker). Jordan Senn and Quentin Culbertson each excelled at special teams late in the year, and will fight for a roster spot.
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