Source: Charlotte Observer
Panthers Content to Watch Free Agency From Sidelines
The Panthers are banking on several injured players to return in prominent roles. Center Justin Hartwig (above) played in two games due to a groin injury, forcing a major upheaval on the offensive line.
He wasn't kidding.
More than three weeks into a league-wide frenzy with big names changing teams and big money thrown around, the Panthers have been virtually silent.
Instead of adding a high-priced linebacker, safety or backup quarterback, the Panthers' biggest moves so far have been signing special-teamer Terrence Melton and defensive tackle Stephen Williams, who spent half of last season on Kansas City's practice squad.
"We go into it with the philosophy that we have our nucleus intact. Now we put great attention into the draft and try to improve that way," Hurney said. "We'll monitor the free agent market and get any right fit that might come available."
Translation: Hurney and coach John Fox appear content with 21 of 22 starters returning from last season's disappointing, injury-plagued 8-8 team.
"It's a position we chose to be in and planned to try to put ourselves in," Hurney said. "Now we just have to wait and see what fits are out there later, if there are any."
The Panthers are banking on several injured players to return in prominent roles. Starting left tackle Travelle Wharton suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the season-opener. Center Justin Hartwig played in two games due to a groin injury, forcing a major upheaval on the offensive line.
Veteran defensive end Mike Rucker is rehabilitating from a torn ACL and cornerback Ken Lucas was plagued by numerous injuries last season.
But the biggest gamble the Panthers are taking is at linebacker. Dan Morgan, a former Pro Bowl pick, suffered at least the fifth concussion of his career in the season opener and missed the final 15 games. Morgan has been cleared to return, but has missed 40 of 96 games in his career.
Chris Draft, who started in Morgan's place at middle linebacker last season, signed with St. Louis last week, leaving Carolina with few options if Morgan goes down.
The Panthers also need help at safety, with free-agent starter Shaun Williams unlikely to return.
It would appear the Panthers also have to sign a backup quarterback since they released Chris Weinke. Starter Jake Delhomme and little-used Brett Basanez are the only quarterbacks on the roster.
The Panthers brought in former Oakland QB Marques Tuiasosopo for a visit earlier this month, but he signed with the New York Jets late last week.
David Carr is available after being released by Houston, so are Joey Harrington, Drew Bledsoe and Aaron Brooks. But Hurney hasn't committed to signing a veteran and could take a quarterback in the draft.
"Obviously, getting experience is a plus, but I don't think you lock yourself into any option," Hurney said.
New offensive coordinator Jeff Davidson said he'd like to throw to the tight end more, though tight end Kris Mangum retired last month. But so far, the Panthers have shied away from signing anyone.
The good news for Panthers' fans looking for action: the draft is only a month away.
"We're always talking to agents, but again, I think with the core we have intact, our major focus this year is the draft and drafting well," Hurney said. "You're always looking to improve yourself, and maybe there is the right fit."