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NFL Writer Adam Caplan: “Are The Panthers Looking For Steve Smith’s Replacement?”

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Bustin’ Loose Wednesday 2-27-13   Adam Caplan joined the guys to talk about the NFL Combine.  What should the Panthers do in free agency? Are the panthers looking for Steve Smith’s replacement?

Being around the Eagles organization and Andy Reid for so long, Adam gave us his opinion on trade sending QB Alex Smith to the Kansas City Chiefs.

“This really helps (the Chiefs) out, because they have not done really well at quarterback. Matt Cassel will most likely be cut… Now they can kind of move on try and figure out what else they need to attack, especially on defense.”

There’s two sides to every trade and so we asked him what this move meant for San Francisco, too.

“For the 49ers, the bottom is Alex Smith is not going to be on the roster. They talked to about a half a dozen teams, and Colin Kaepernick’s their guy. You’re not going to pay a backup quarterback $8.5M. So they’ll move on and this creates a nice chunk of cap space and will help them in free agency.”

Every draft class is different, so how might this one help the Panthers needs?

“When you look at what the Panthers want to do, it’s obviously clear Defensive Tackle has got to be a point of  emphasis as they head into free agency and the draft. I would put that at the number one position. Cornerback is right there… I think Defensive End depth, that’s another one which is an issue. I think Wide Receiver obviously is an issue. I think Guard they have to look at.”

Ron Rivera’s comments on NFL AM had a lot of people wondering if WR might be the position the staff is targeting, so what might the Panthers do in their search to find a complementary guy, opposite of Steve Smith?

“I think a couple of things. Steve Smith turns 34 in May. David Gettis has done absolutely nothing… Polaris has done really nothing. Joe Adams didn’t so anything  as a rookie and Armanti Edwards was a terrible draft pick. So they have major depth problems. LaFell is an inconsistent player, although I do like him. But I’d put that as like the 4th need. They can look at it two ways: Get the eventual successor to Steve Smith, or get competition for LaFell.”

A lot of focus was centered on two players during the Combine: Manti Te’o and Tyrann Mathieu, but which one helped himself out the most in Indy?

“Te’o interviewed well, and I thought all along he’ be a late first, early second round pick… I don’t think his 40 time was a big deal… Let’s talk about the on-the-field stuff. The Alabama game was a joke. He was terrible in that game… Kuechly is abut 1,000 times better than guy.”

It’s difficult to talk Panthers without mentioning Cam Newton, and Adam gave his thoughts on where the young QB is in his development.

“I think he fell off just a little bit last season… I think the problem was Rob Chudzinski and his staff did a poor job. I thought their reluctancy to commit to the run, to get balance, I think they fell in love with Cam’s arm, and I think it hurt them. Especially when your defense isn’t very good.”

Free agency kicks off March 12th. What are a couple positions that the Panthers might be able to sure up during this period?

“I think defensively it’s very strong at safety. They’re top heavy. There is 5 or 6 starters out there… And quite frankly, I think the Panthers need to upgrade at Free Safety… D Tackle is pretty good. I think there are plenty of names there that could help the Panthers.”

The Panthers cap problems have been well publicized, so does Adam even think it’s possible for the Panthers to get any of the big name free agents this offseason?

“I would be surprised. I think they sign a mid-level free agent… I don’t see them getting involved with a high-priced free agent.”

Last question out the door for Adam, who does he think will be the starting QB Week One for Chip Kelly and Philadelphia Eagles?

“I’m still sticking with Vick… Because the Eagles contend, privately and publicly, that he’s a better fit and Chip Kelly’s offense will force him to get rid of the ball quickly… But we’ll see if it works out that way.”

Don’t forget to follow Adam Caplan on Twitter @CaplanNFL



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