By Alec Campbell
One thing on which all Carolina Panther fans can agree is that the organization is thoroughly entrenched in the “re-building” process. Four weeks into the season the positions of need have revealed themselves and it’s time to address the “building” part.
The Panthers have dropped and added players here and there, as most teams do throughout the season, but nobody memorable. With this team not likely to be a playoff contender, it makes no sense to spend money on a free agent who will be gone at season’s end. Leftovers and journeymen act only as band-aids to long term needs. At some point it’s important to get proactive in the acquisition of players who can make a difference on a weekly and yearly basis. Literally MAKE your team better. There’s a new franchise quarterback and a new coaching regime. It’s the perfect time to make a move. With the trade deadline less than 2 weeks away the Panthers have an opportunity to make that move. They should trade Jonathan Stewart.
This may be tough to swallow for many Panther fans and trades don’t happen often in the NFL, but the fact is Stewart is healthy, productive, and desirable. Not to mention, the Panthers don’t need him in Rob Chudzinski’s offense especially with DeAngelo Williams now locked up in a long term deal. Mike Goodson is a serviceable backup to Williams. More importantly, the Panthers can get something of value for him.
From the tradee’s standpoint, J Stew is still playing under his rookie contract which makes it easier to take on his deal. It’s cheap, and they wouldn’t be bound to keeping him for an extended period as he is signed only through next season.
The question then becomes, for who or what? First you have to identify the Panther’s positions of need and then what teams could be in a position to accept a trade.
In no particular order of importance Carolina’s needs include wide receiver, defensive back, linebacker, and defensive tackle. It would be hard to believe that the Panthers would trade a marquee player for a defensive back and I doubt the Panthers could justify trading for a tackle given they drafted two last year. Also, most teams would be reluctant to trade a defensive player without getting one in return so that eliminates a move for a linebacker as well. Therefore, a trade for a wide receiver is not only attainable but fills a need.
The offense has not been the major problem for the Panthers this season but adding a blue chip wide receiver would be a huge step. With Chudzinski’s pass first offense and a budding star in Cam Newton at the controls, it’s a desirable environment for a young, premier wide out. In addition to Steve Smith, Jeremy Shockey, and Greg Olsen the Panthers could build one of the most dangerous offenses in the league. Speaking of Smith, he may only have two or three more good years in him so it would behoove the team to bring in a star now as a future replacement to Smith.
There are a few really good collegiate prospects who may be there at the draft and would be cost efficient, (i.e. Justin Blackmon/Oklahoma St., Alshon Jeffrey/South Carolina, and Michael Floyd/Notre Dame) but at this point it’s hard to project and it wouldn’t hurt to add someone who has played at the NFL level.
These are purely suggestions but here are just a couple receivers that are potentially attainable:
Brandon Marshall- Marshall is in his 6th year so he should have 4-6 years left and he’s a big physical receiver. Reggie Bush is a scat-back or third down back at best and Jonathan Stewart would fill the void of an every down power back. The Dolphins should be willing to try anything and everything to improve.
Michael Crabtree- This seems like a risk but things got off to a rocky start in San Francisco with a long contract holdout in his rookie year and he just doesn’t seem to be comfortable there. He’s had some small nagging injuries and his production so far this year leaves something to be desired. But a change of scenery might be just what he needs. Plus he’s young, big, and full of talent. I know the 49ers have Frank Gore but he’s in his 7th season already. There’s not much depth at that RB position in San Fran so they may be willing to take on J Stew.
If the Panthers cannot land a player for Stewart it’s always helpful to stockpile draft picks as well. The New England Patriots are a great example of collecting draft picks over the years and look how it has turned out for them.
I’m not a stockbroker but I am familiar with the adage “buy low, sell high. I think the Panthers are in a unique position to try to make something happen at the trade deadline. The timing is perfect with a new quarterback, new coaches, and a player as marketable as Jonathan Stewart. This offseason they showed a willingness to spend money and seem committed to making this team a contender. Now is not the time to rest on what seems to be a solid start to a bright future, but rather become a hunter, get proactive, and make things happen.
Follow me on Twitter @AlecTheDon