Depth chart shows Panthers still have needs at DT, safety, nickel

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The Carolina Panthers shored up a few needs by re-signing defensive end Charles Johnson, signing backup center Gino Gradkowski and backup defensive tackle Paul Soliai.

Another defensive tackle, a nickel back and a safety are the most glaring needs in free agency and the draft when you look at the projected depth chart.

Here’s the latest look at that after three weeks of free agency:


• Quarterback -- Cam Newton, Derek Anderson, Joe Webb

Comment: With Webb’s new two-year deal the Panthers are locked up three deep here through 2017.

• Running back -- Jonathan Stewart, Cameron Artis-Payne, Fozzy Whittaker, Brandon Wegher

Comment: That the Panthers have a visit scheduled with Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry next month suggests they’re still looking to upgrade this position.

• Fullback -- Mike Tolbert, draft pick or free agent

Comment: Re-signing Tolbert for two years at a bargain takes care of this spot.

• Tight end -- Greg Olsen, Ed Dickson

Comment: Just a matter of developing a third player, perhaps a draft pick, behind these two.

• Wide receiver – Kelvin Benjamin, Ted Ginn Jr., Kevin Norwood

Comment: The return of Benjamin after a season-ending knee injury during the 2015 training camp is huge.

• Wide receiver – Devin Funchess, Philly Brown, Stephen Hill

Comment: Carolina felt strong enough about the position that it didn’t re-sign veteran Jerricho Cotchery. Brenton Bersin adds more depth here, but look for Carolina to add another player in free agency or the draft for competition.

• Left tackle – Michael Oher, free agent or draft pick

Comment: Project David Foucault remains in the mix and right tackle Mike Remmers could back up here.

• Left guard – Andrew Norwell, Chris Scott

Comment: This position seems set.

• Center – Ryan Kalil, Gino Gradkowski

Comment: Signing Gradkowski to a three-year deal to back up Kalil and play guard was one of the team’s big goals in free agency.

• Right guard – Trai Turner, Gino Gradkowski

Comment: You still could see a draft pick to develop depth here.

• Right tackle – Mike Remmers, Daryl Williams

Comment: This is where you’ll see the biggest competition for a starting job on the line. Remmers’ Super Bowl performance raised questions.


• Left end – Charles Johnson, Ryan Delaire, Arthur Miley

Comment: Re-signing Johnson to a one-year, $3 million deal was a bargain considering he was scheduled to count $15 million against the cap and the team cleared $11 million in cap space by cutting him. But look for Carolina to add a draft pick, maybe a first-rounder, to develop for the future.

• Tackle – Kawann Short, free agent or draft pick

Comment: The Panthers still are in talks with their own free agent, Kyle Love. The draft is deep in tackles, so don’t be surprised to see a high pick spent here.

• Tackle – Star Lotulelei, Paul Soliai

Comment: Signing former Atlanta tackle Soliai to a two-year deal solidified the need for a veteran backup. The Panthers obviously weren’t convinced Dwan Edwards could be that player, so they released him.

• Right end – Kony Ealy, Mario Addison

Comment: Ealy showed with three sacks, an interception and a forced fumble in Super Bowl 50 that he is the future here.

• Weakside linebacker – Thomas Davis, A.J. Klein

Comment: This position is pretty much set.

• Middle linebacker -- Luke Kuechly, David Mayo

Comment: Ben Jacobs also will figure in as the backup here.

• Strongside linebacker – Shaq Thompson, A.J. Klein

Comment: With a year under his belt, Thompson will give Carolina more flexibility than ever.

• Cornerback – Josh Norman, Teddy Williams, Lou Young

Comment: Carolina placed the franchise stag on Norman for $13.9 million, although he’s yet to sign it. The goal remains a long-term deal before the July 15 deadline.

• Cornerback – Bene Benwikere, Robert McClain, free agent or draft pick

Comment: It wouldn’t surprise if Carolina used a first-round pick here. A nickel back, either through free agency or the draft, is a priority with Benwikere looking to take over the every-down role. Safety Colin Jones also is an option at nickel.

• Free safety – Tre Boston, Colin Jones, free agent or draft pick

Comment: Carolina allowed Roman Harper, 33, to become a free agent. He wants to return, but Carolina likely will look to get younger here with a draft pick.

• Strong safety – Kurt Coleman, Dean Marlowe

Comment: The Panthers added Trenton Robinson in free agency, but he is more of a special teams player. Coleman was a free agency steal in 2015. He led the team in interceptions with seven during the regular season.


• Placekicker – Graham Gano, Swayze Waters

Comment: Waters was efficient kicking in the Canadian Football League for Toronto the past four years, but his focus is punting.

• Punter – Swayze Waters, free agent or draft pick

Comment: Carolina wasn’t willing to compete with the four-year, $8.8 million deal Jacksonville gave Brad Nortman in free agency. Nortman has been the punter since 2012. They recently made an offer on a punter but lost him to Tampa Bay.

• Deep snapper – J.J. Jansen

Comment: He was one of the first players the Panthers locked down with a new deal, so you know how strongly they feel about him.