NFL free agency is off and running, and we're keeping track of every major signing, trade and release of the 2020 offseason, with analysis from our NFL Nation reporters and grades from Bill Barnwell. The new league year begins March 18 at 4 p.m. ET, which means free-agent signings can be made official after that. The first round of the 2020 NFL draft begins April 23.
Teddy Bridgewater, quarterback
What it means: The Panthers' offense with Bridgewater at quarterback will look a lot like the Saints, who run a combination of West Coast and spread sets. This deal will reunite Bridgewater with new Carolina offensive coordinator Joe Brady, who worked with the Saints offense for two seasons before going to LSU last year. This is important because with offseason activities postponed indefinitely, Bridgewater has a leg up on what Brady wants to do. Carolina gets Bridgewater for almost exactly what they would have paid Cam Newton, who is entering the last year of his deal, and that makes this a bargain.
What's the risk: Not a lot. Bridgewater is a proven starter with experience in what the Panthers want to do offensively. At 27, he's a younger version of Newton, who will turn 31 in May. Bridgewater is not as spectacular as Newton, but he's steady and efficient, everything new coach Matt Rhule will want. The only risk is that Bridgewater might not have the team around him -- aside from RB Christian McCaffrey and WR D.J. Moore -- to win right away.
Pharoh Cooper, wide receiver
The Panthers signed Cooper on a one-year deal.
What it means: The Panthers don't want to use starting wide receivers DJ Moore or Curtis Samuel on special teams any more than they have to, so Cooper at least fills that void. A 2016 fourth-round pick by the Rams, he earned Pro Bowl honors in 2017 as a returner with 932 yards and a touchdown on 34 kickoffs. He also had 32 punt returns for 399 yards. He might not offer much as a receiver with 50 catches in four seasons, but he has speed and play-making ability for special teams.
What's the risk: None. Just like most of Carolina's free-agent signings, he is a low cost-low risk pickup. He's got local connections, too, having grown up in North Carolina and played for the University of South Carolina, where he was a two-time All-SEC selection.
Robby Anderson, WR
The Panthers agreed to a two-year, $20 million deal with the former Jets receiver.
What it means: This means new offensive coordinator Joe Brady will have a lot of fun and the potential for a potent offense with Anderson joining Moore, Samuel, McCaffrey and Bridgewater. There's also the making for a pretty good 4X100 relay team as well with Anderson and the 4.36 40 he ran at Temple during his pro day. Anderson also brings a knowledge of what new coach Matt Rhule wants, having played for Rhule at Temple from 2013-15. This is a solid signing.
What's the risk: Committing $10 million a year to a receiver during a rebuilding period seems to be the biggest risk. But even that seems minimal because it's not a long-term commitment and adds to the potential of the offense keeping the Panthers competitive those years while the overhauled new defense comes around. Anderson is only 26, so the Panthers are getting him in what should be his prime.
Seth Roberts, WR
The Panthers agreed to a deal with former Ravens receiver Seth Roberts.
What it means: The Panthers need bodies at wide receiver, and Roberts will be just that, a third or fourth receiver at best. He was a disappointment at Baltimore last season, catching only 21 passes for 271 yards. His best season was with the Raiders in 2018 when he caught 45 passes for 494 yards and two touchdowns. His best attribute for Carolina may be his blocking.
What's the risk: None, really. Roberts has the toughness new coach Matt Rhule seeks as he rebuilds the culture, but he's not a game changer and there are no guarantees he will make the final roster.
Tre Boston, safety
What it means: New coach Matt Rhule talks about wanting to build a culture, and Boston is a reflection of the kind of culture he wants. He's not only a solid safety with big play-making ability, he's a good locker room presence. Rhule needs to keep some of the old players to bridge the gap with the new. Boston may not be the best tackler, but he's still young (27) and fits the profile the new regime wants.
What's the risk: Low. Boston still came at bargain considering his $6 million a year average doesn't rank among the top 20 safeties from last season. He's solid off the field as well. Really can't see a risk or negative in this at all other than he could be a better golfer. Hits it a long way but not always accurate.
Stephen Weatherly, defensive end
What it means: That the Panthers got a young (25), up-and-coming edge rusher at a bargain price (2 years, $12.5 million), the type of player they are looking for in a rebuild. Defensive end in particular is a position of need with Mario Addison and Bruce Irvin both free agents, and only Addison on the team’s radar. Weatherly also offers a plus in that he can play end or outside linebacker, so he’ll fit in with any of the multiple fronts coordinator Phil Snow plans to use.
What's the risk: Very low. Expectations won't be high for this defense or the team, so the Panthers are looking to rebuild with young, inexpensive players with potential. Carolina isn't in position to pay or attract high-priced free agents as they came into free agency below the league average with just over $31 million in cap space.
Juston Burris, safety
What it means: It could mean the Panthers won't re-sign free agent Tre Boston, a veteran starter who will demand a much higher price tag. It means the Panthers get another young player (26) with potential at a position of need at a low price, ingredients they are looking for throughout free agency. It means they have a player with potential, but still somewhat unproven despite being in the league since 2016 for three teams, including the Browns twice.
What's the risk: Inexperience. Burris' only real productive season came in 2019, when he started nine games for the Browns. He showed potential with two interceptions and a sack. He could simply be a replacement for backup safety Colin Jones, who asked for his release. If so, that brings Boston or another more experienced safety back into the mix.
Kyle Allen, quarterback
The Panthers re-signed Allen, who started 12 games in 2019 and was set to become an exclusive-rights free agent, to a one-year deal.
What it means: That the Panthers have depth at a position where they need bodies with Cam Newton's health still in question. Newton likely won't be ready to go a 100 percent during offseason workouts until at least the June minicamp and possibly training camp, per league sources. So Allen, Will Grier and whomever else Carolina brings in will get a lot of reps. Remember, besides rehabbing from Lisfranc surgery, Newton is less than two years from shoulder surgery, so the Panthers' new coaching staff won't want to overuse him in offseason workouts.
What's the risk: Not much of one. The Panthers won in Allen's first four starts before finishing 5-7, so he has experience that Grier doesn't. Even if you wind up cutting him at the end of the preseason, it won't be a big hit to the salary cap. So this move was a no-brainer.
John Miller, guard
What it means: Carolina traded starting right guard Trai Turner to the Chargers and failed to re-sign left guard Greg Van Roten before free agency began. Miller, a former third-round pick by Buffalo in the 2015 draft, was released by Cincinnati, but at 26 with 60 career starts he's a cheap option to fill a big need. He started 13 games for the Bengals last season after being signed to a three-year, $16.5 million deal by the Bengals a year ago. Basically a cheap option at a key need.
What's the risk: Considering it's only a one-year deal and only a $4 million investment for a player that has started 60 games and still is only 26, not much of a gamble. The Panthers have to give new starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater a chance to succeed and Miller can help do that.
Keith Kirkwood, wide receiver
What it means: The Panthers added a body to the receiving corps who has a year with offensive coordinator Joe Brady in New Orleans and a year with head coach Matt Rhule at Temple, so there's familiarity here. That could be important as Rhule tries to get others to buy into his process and Brady develops the passing game. Just don't look for Kirkwood to crack the top four receivers.
What's the risk: If you haven't noticed yet, the Panthers are signing young players to inexpensive deals. No different here, so little risk at all. If Kirkwood makes the final roster, that would make this a good deal, but not a bad deal if he doesn't.
Seth DeValve, tight end
What it means: DeValve likely won't be a threat for the starting spot, but he adds depth behind Ian Thomas and Chris Manhertz. Thomas is Carolina's first option to replace Greg Olsen. Don't be surprised to see another player added at that position in the draft. DeValve at least adds experience, with 60 career catches for 736 yards and four touchdowns. He had 12 catches for 140 yards with Jacksonville last season.
What's the risk: There’s no risk at all. Carolina needs depth at TE and that is exactly what DeValve is, depth with a low, short-term deal. He will be good for practice but don't expect a lot in terms of making an impact in games.
Tahir Whitehead, linebacker
What it means: Whitehead adds veteran experience to a linebacker group that is relatively young after the unexpected retirement of Luke Kuechly. Matt Rhule is familiar with Whitehead, as he was an assistant coach at Temple for much of Whitehead's time there. He was a fifth-round pick by Detroit in 2012. But experience is the biggest thing Whitehead will provide with Shaq Thompson, 25, as the veteran member of the returning group. Whitehead, who turns 30 in April, also brings versatility at outside linebacker that gives new coordinator Phil Snow many options in terms of scheme.
What's the risk: With a reported 1-year, $2.5 million contract, the risk is very low financially for a player of Whitehead's caliber. He could fill a big need, so this sounds like a safe deal for all.
P.J. Walker, quarterback
What it means: Rhule has a quarterback familiar with the "process" he talks about as being so important to the rebuild. Walker was Rhule's quarterback during the rebuild at Temple (2013-16) before he moved on to Baylor for a rebuild. Walker was having a solid year for the Houston Roughnecks of the XFL before the coronavirus canceled the remaining games. One could argue he was the league MVP, so the Panthers are sending the message to backups Will Grier and Kyle Allen they need to step up their game.
What's the risk: Sounds like a broken record here, but little to none. Walker represents everything Rhule wants in a player in terms of character and competitive nature. The risk is for the other backup quarterbacks who might be in danger of not making the final roster with Walker around.
Zach Kerr, defensive tackle
The Panthers signed former Arizona Cardinals defensive tackle Zach Kerr to a two-year deal.
What it means: The Panthers were thin at DT after declining the option on starter Dontari Poe for salary-cap reasons. They also moved on from backups Vernon Butler and Kyle Love, so adding an experienced veteran was almost essential even if it's just for depth. This doesn't preclude taking Auburn's Derrick Brown or South Carolina's Javon Kinlaw at No. 7 in the draft. It just means Carolina added a much-needed big body (334 pounds) in the middle of the defense to play beside Kawann Short.
What's the risk: Not a lot of risk for what likely is a backup player. Kerr is more of a space-eater than a sack artist, with only 7.5 career sacks since coming out of Delaware as an undrafted free agent.
DeAndrew White, wide receiver
What it means: This simply is a re-sign of a player for depth, for a player who has been on and off the roster and practice squad since 2018. Undrafted out of Alabama in 2015, his best chance to make the roster likely will be on special teams.
What's the risk: No risk, just another body to fill the roster and practice. Odds are he won't make the 53-man roster.