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Monday, March 24, 2014

Ongoing Needs Analysis

Carolina finally made some positive gains in free agency at low cost
last week. The process is certainly not over, but here's where I
believe the team sits, along with a ranking of pickups.

1. Antoine Cason - this cornerback is my favorite pickup so far.
Certainly, not being a starter last year didn't help his stock, and
Carolina pounced on that; they've found a starting caliber player for
under $800,000 and he gives the team something to work with.

2. Jerricho Cotchery - for what the team does, Cotchery might be a
better fit than most of the players around last year. He's an
intermediate threat and a short-yardage guy.

3. Roman Harper - he's what they aimed to have in Mike Mitchell last
year. Certainly, Mitchell ended up somehow going from meathead SS to a
big but rangy FS and looked great doing it, but a lot of that was in
coaching and the front seven. I feel like some of Harper's concerns
will go away behind this front, too, and he might be that attitude guy
back there, the way Mitchell was. Adds legitimacy to the secondary that
wasn't there last year, though I don't think they'll get statistically
out of him what they did from Mitchell.

4. Tiquan Underwood - I don't know how much this deep threat will end
up being used - they got something out of Ted Ginn deep but he was more
an up the seam guy at times than a 40 up and 5 from the sideline deep
guy. The pairing of Cam Newton and the safe teachings of Mike Shula
have kept things from being turnover happy, bur they'll have to put up
more deep balls if they want to take advantage of Underwood's speed.
The screen game is another place he'll make some things happen, but that
hasn't been the most repeatable part of the packaged play concept.

5. Mike McNeill - this street TE might make the team as a blocker. Ben
Hartsock was pretty good, so big shoes to fill. Richie Brockel's
important enough to this team, and they like the ridiculously chiseled
Brandon Williams, so McNeill will have to work at a spot, too.

6. Joe Webb - I don't know. This looks more like a sideshow than a
real move, but I see the logic behind it, too. If we see him past
preseason, something has probably gone wrong. I've never seen this
fanbase deal with an athletic backup QB all that well, though that was
without an athletic starter. Either way, he's a #3 on a team that
probably keeps 2.

So where does that leave the team?

*Obviously, there's a glaring issue on the offensive line. Sure they
want to try Byron Bell at LT, but I'd rather they have other options.
They like Nate Chandler, too, I guess, but I don't know if this pair and
a draftee is enough to improve. They showed early interest in a couple
of linemen but nothing since. They might be OK at guard, where they
have bodies, but they are in dire need at tackle, and they lost their
backup centers outside undrafted Brian Folkerts. So, they could be in
the market for depth there, and need at least one starter at tackle.
The draft is strong, but you can't guarantee that to be a good thing.

*They have two OK corners, and need more. You could count on Melvin
White to be a part of things, but he should at the least be pushed.
There's no one who fits a slot CB role, and the backups in place might
be good enough to be the 4th or 5th guy, but that's it. I'd feel better
about another vet - Drayton Florence can be had cheaply, but he's
another guy who has played a lot on the outside.

*They have resolution needed with Charles Godfrey, and at least one FS
regardless of what happens there. Carolina's nosed around a few more
safeties since signing Harper, so I don't think they're completely done
with the secondary. Ideally, they'd pick up both a CB and a FS, leaving
them room to draft one guy if needed but not being forced to do either.

*They don't have enough receivers, even if they plan on drafting a guy.
A first or second round guy would be an all-around receiver, not a
roleplayer like the two they have. Like at cornerback, the back-end
depth might be good enough for 4th and 5th slots, but even then there's
no room for anyone to get hurt.
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