Free-agency primer: Panthers

Key free agents: FS Mike Mitchell, WR Ted Ginn Jr., CB Captain Munnerlyn, OT Bruce Campbell.

Where they stand: The immediate future of Carolina’s top two free agents -- left tackle Jordan Gross and defensive end Greg Hardy -- has been decided. Gross retired, and Hardy was franchised. Now the Panthers turn their attention to Mitchell at free safety and Ginn at wide receiver. They want Mitchell back because of the attitude he brought to the league's second-ranked defense. They also like Ginn because of his value as a kick returner beyond stretching the field for quarterback Cam Newton. Look for Carolina to let its other free agents test the open market. If the price is right, the Panthers will bring some back. If not, they’ll look for bargain upgrades.

What to expect: Gross' retirement and the uncertainty surrounding the future of wide receiver Steve Smith make signing a veteran at each position almost a necessity. Carolina won’t spend a ton on either because of salary-cap limitations, so look for general manager Dave Gettleman to be patient and let the market level out before making a big run at players. One of the intriguing names is wide receiver Sidney Rice, who was released by Seattle. He's 27, grew up about an hour from Charlotte and went to the University of South Carolina less than two hours away. He would provide the big target Newton hasn't had.