CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Here are the moves the Carolina Panthers should consider when free agency opens at 4 p.m. ET Wednesday, March 14:
Sign veteran corner: The trade with Philadelphia for Torrey Smith gave the Panthers needed experience, speed at receiver, but left them without a starting corner since Daryl Worley went to the Eagles. Though there are plenty of young players on the roster that can fill that role, adding a veteran corner opposite James Bradberry in free agency would strengthen the secondary to the way it was in 2015 when Charles Tillman played opposite Josh Norman. Malcolm Butler may be too expensive. Perhaps somebody such as Trumaine Johnson, Rashaan Melvin or E.J. Gaines makes more sense at a lower cost.
Re-sign defensive tackle Star Lotulelei: Starting left guard Andrew Norwell is moving on because he will draw too high of a price. Lotulelei likely won’t demand a top 10 defensive tackle salary, so he likely could be had for $7 million to $9 million a year. He’s a space-eater in the middle who would free tackle Kawann Short and the ends to create havoc on quarterbacks. Keep Lotulelei in the mix with Short, 2016 first-round pick Vernon Butler and another player and the Panthers would keep intact the core of their interior line that is so key.
Sign safety Tre Boston: Carolina released veteran Kurt Coleman because his production declined the past two seasons and he had a high salary-cap figure ($5.1 million). Boston wasn’t fully ready to be the starter in 2016 when he started 10 games at Carolina, and the Panthers let him go to the Chargers in free agency. But Boston had a career-best five interceptions and 79 tackles last season, and at 25 could offer potential long-term stability, experience and youth at the position. He likely would welcome a return to the state where he attended college, at the University of North Carolina.
Upgrade and get younger at defensive end: The Panthers have Julius Peppers, 38, considering a return for one last season and Mario Addison, 30, on the side. The problem here is there aren’t a lot of great options without a huge price tag -- and some of the players who won't be expensive have baggage. New Orleans’ Alex Okafor, 27, could be the solution, but he’s a risk coming off an Achilles injury that potentially could sideline him into training camp and possibly even into the season.