Updated Panthers depth chart heading into free agency

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- My projections for the Carolina Panthers depth chart including recent acquisitions and what might be anticipated heading into the start of free agency that begins today at 4 p.m. ET:


Quarterback: Cam Newton, Derek Anderson, Joe Webb

Webb's re-signing, which happened Monday, was the only question here. It's a sign of just how much the organization likes the former University of Alabama-Birmingham star in terms of his versatility and locker room presence.

Running back: Jonathan Stewart, Fozzy Whittaker, draft pick

Whittaker was signed to a two-year deal on Monday, so the Panthers like what he offers as backup for Stewart with all-time leading rusher DeAngelo Williams to be released. A long-term solution may be sought in the draft that is deep at this position.

Fullback: Mike Tolbert, Richie Brockel

Panthers were 7-3 when Tolbert played last season. Enough said.

Wide receiver: Kelvin Benjamin, Brenton Bersin

Benjamin, last year's first-round draft pick, proved to be a solid long-term replacement for Steve Smith as the team's go-to receiver. Bersin, re-signed Monday to a one-year deal, is a nice role player.

Wide receiver: Draft pick/FA, Jerricho Cotchery

Cotchery offered solid veteran leadership last season, but lacks elite speed to be a solid No. 2 receiver. That player is likely to come in the draft, but don't rule out a free agent addition.

Wide receiver: Ted Ginn Jr., Philly Brown

Both offer speed, but neither has proven to be an elite receiver. If Ginn simply proves to be the solid kick returner he was at Carolina in 2013 then re-signing him on Monday was a good move.

Left tackle: Michael Oher, draft pick

He's struggled in recent years between Tennessee and Baltimore. He played right tackle last season for the Titans, but he's a cheap short-term solution to replace Byron Bell, who struggled a lot in 2014 on the left side. A tackle at No. 25 still is the front-runner for a first-round pick.

Left guard: Andrew Norwell, Amini Silatolu

No real concerns here with the emergence of Norwell late last season.

Center: Ryan Kalil, Brian Folkerts

Four-time Pro Bowler Kalil is the glue that holds this line together.

Right guard: Trai Turner, Chris Scott

Last year's third-round pick should be a long-term fixture here.

Right tackle: Mike Remmers, Nate Chandler

Chandler began last season as the starter, but Remmers earned the right to enter training camp there with a strong finish while Chandler was injured.

Tight end: Greg Olsen, free agent

Panthers still are interested in signing Ed Dickson to a multi-year deal if the price is right. Brandon Williams and Mike McNeil are still on the roster as well.


Defensive end: Charles Johnson, Mario Addison

The biggest question here is whether the Panthers will restructure Johnson's contract, set to count $20 million against the 2015 salary cap. Addison is changes the pace well as a pass rush specialist.

Defensive tackle: Kawann Short, Dwan Edwards

Edwards is interested in returning and the Panthers have expressed an interest in him, but there is no deal yet. Don't rule out Carolina drafting a defensive tackle.

Defensive tackle: Star Lotulelei, Colin Cole

Aging veteran Cole was re-signed as a space-eater on run situations, but Lotulelei is the star of the interior line.

Defensive end: Kony Ealy, Wes Horton

Last year's second-round pick, Ealy, came on strong late in the season and could be the long-term replacement for Greg Hardy.

Strongside linebacker: A.J. Klein, Adarius Glanton

Two young, dependable players. The only question is whether veteran Chase Blackburn will be re-signed to add depth and play special teams. That's looking shaky.

Middle linebacker: Luke Kuechly, Ben Jacobs

Jacobs was re-signed to add depth and play special teams, but 2013 NFL Defensive Player of the Year Kuechly seldom comes off the field.

Weakside linebacker: Thomas Davis, draft pick

Davis is playing the best football of his career, but he turns 32 this month. Look for a young prospect to be selected in the middle rounds of the draft.

Cornerback: Josh Norman, Carrington Byndom

Norman was as close to a shutdown corner as Carolina had last season. Fixture.

Cornerback: Free agent/draft pick, Bene' Benwikere

Benwikere finished the season as the every down corner, but the Panthers like him better at nickel. Finding a corner who will allow them to do that would be a big plus for this secondary.

Nickelback: Bene' Benwikere, Colin Jones

Jones proved serviceable late last season when Benwikere was forced to play outside, but Benwikere is the solution.

Strong safety: Roman Harper, FA/draft

The Panthers love Harper's veteran leadership, but he's 32 and at the back end of his career.

Free safety: Tre Boston, FA/draft

The release of Thomas DeCoud means the Panthers need to add depth here.


Kicker: Graham Gano

Had an off year by his 2013 standards, but still solid.

Punter: Brad Nortman

A weapon at flipping the field, and will be more of one once the cover teams are upgraded.

Long snapper: J.J. Jansen

Steady says it all.

Punt returner: Ted Ginn Jr., Philly Brown or draft

General manager Dave Gettleman mentioned Ginn as a punt returner first in his news release announcing Ginn had been re-signed. Might be a hint.

Kick returner: Ted Ginn Jr., Fozzy Whittaker/draft

Same as above until somebody else proves they can do the job.