The Carolina Panthers wrap up offseason workouts with a three-day minicamp that begins on Tuesday.
There aren’t a lot of big position battles, but there are a lot of questions.
Let’s get to the Saturday mailbag.
@DNewtonESPN: This is a question I've pondered while watching offseason workouts. Re-signed? No. Jonathan Stewart will be 30 at the end of his contract and that's an age most running backs start to decline. How much longer he remains on the roster depends on this season, Stewart's first that he'll enter as the clear-cut No. 1 back with DeAngelo Williams gone. If Stewart stays healthy and performs like he did down the stretch last season, when his 437 yards in the last four games ranked No. 1 in the NFL, he'll be worth his 2016 cap number of $9.55 million. Stewart's deal runs through 2017, but as we've seen with Williams and Steve Smith (Carolina's all-time leading rusher and receiver), general manager Dave Gettleman is willing to make the tough cut before their contract ends. The Panthers are high on Cameron Artis-Payne, selected in the fifth round out of Auburn. He's a pounder as he showed in leading the SEC in rushing last season. Coach Ron Rivera didn't hesitate to say Artis-Payne could handle the load if Stewart was injured. But the goal is to have two complementary backs to share the load. For that reason I can see Stewart playing at least through 2016, barring a setback.
@DNewtonESPN: I covered this in a Friday piece on Brown, but yes. He definitely has big-play speed and he's running more precise routes heading into his second season. He also has developed a nice chemistry with quarterback Cam Newton. I can see him playing a bigger role than Ted Ginn Jr., who was brought back after a year in Arizona.
@DNewtonESPN: I'm going with the player mentioned above. As tight end Greg Olsen said this past week, all anybody knew about Corey Brown this time a year ago was he was fast. Beyond what I mentioned above, Brown is practicing with a confidence that gives you the feeling he's going to do big things.
@DNewtonESPN: Not at all. If anything, Kelvin Benjamin learned from the midseason slump last season when he hit the rookie wall. He's working on ways to take care of his body better to handle the long grind of a 16-game schedule. He's working on running better routes. With other weapons added around him in Devin Funchess and Ginn, that will make it more difficult for teams to double him. I look for his numbers to go up.
@DNewtonESPN: Charles "Peanut" Tillman. He was signed to be the starting corner opposite Josh Norman so Bene' Benwikere could move back to the nickel spot where he is more effective. Not to say Benwikere can't be the every down corner. Carolina went 4-0 at the end of the regular season last year when he moved into that role. He'll still get reps there this season. But this defense is better when Benwikere is at nickel.
@DNewtonESPN: Special teams. The backfield simply is too crowded for Todman to expect meaningful snaps unless something changes between now and the season. Todman's biggest value is as a kickoff returner. He averaged 25.6 yards a return last season at Jacksonville. Carolina averaged 21.8 as a team. He's definitely an upgrade there.