<
>

When will Luke Kuechly, Josh Norman get new deals?

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Offseason workouts are over. The Carolina Panthers coaches, players and executives are headed for their final vacation before training camp begins on July 31.

But questions? There always are questions.

Let’s get to the Saturday mailbag.

@DNewtonESPN: I won't definitely say next in line, but middle linebacker Luke Kuechly will be extended. If the Panthers follow the path they did with quarterback Cam Newton, that probably won't come until next offseason. But with the team more than $13 million under the salary cap heading into training camp, I wouldn't totally rule out something happening before the season. It's not likely, but the possibility exists. As for cornerback Josh Norman, you'd think he was a priority. He's entering the final year of his rookie deal. He proved last season that he can be a top-tier cornerback. But the Panthers haven't invested heavily in a cornerback under general manager Dave Gettleman since he arrived in January of 2013. They've filled the position with young players (example: Melvin White, Norman) and recycled veterans (Drayton Florence, Charles Tillman). They believe that by investing in the front seven they can get by without highly-paid defensive backs. If they plan on keeping Norman, it might be wise to sign him before the season. If he has another year like last season - or better - he might cost too much to keep long-term.

@DNewtonESPN: None are serious. They've all been hamstring or groin injuries. Having said that, wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin's multiple hamstring injuries, which kept him from most of the offseason workouts, is something to keep an eye on. As coach Ron Rivera said, Benjamin is too good to not have on the field. But barring some freakish off-the-field injury, the Panthers should be as healthy as they've been in a long time going into training camp.

@DNewtonESPN: Consistency is the major issue, but Kony Ealy is showing improvement. He probably had his best game against Seattle in the playoffs. He can play end and tackle, as Greg Hardy did. I look for the battle to be the every-down end opposite Charles Johnson to ultimately come down to Ealy and Frank Alexander.

@DNewtonESPN: I'm curious to see that as well. Chris Houston was here for only three practices before the team broke for vacation. The toe injury that sidelined him last season appears to be healed. He made at least one nice play on the ball that I saw in practice. He's started 91 games in seven seasons, so he's not used to coming off the bench. I don't see him replacing Josh Norman or Charles Tillman as an every-down corner, but he could be a good insurance policy.