The Carolina Panthers are certainly in better shape than they were in 2011 where free agent losses are concerned. Last year, the Panthers were trying to keep Charles Johnson and DeAngelo Williams, plus several other important players. Williams and Johnson in particular were highly valued in free agency but the Panthers managed to keep them both. In 2012, the Panthers are facing a much easier crop of potential free agents to re-sign and retain. There are several free agent linebackers that the Panthers need to keep if they can. As a huge Panthers fan, I am hopeful that they will see the value in having depth at this important position and re-sign at least three linebackers.
Dan Conner – Linebacker
There are things about Conner that I simply don’t like. Perhaps it is because of his lack of speed in comparison to Jon Beason and Thomas Davis. It always seems as though he is in on the tackle but it always feels like it comes later than it should. Still, with Davis so fragile and other potential linebacker defections like Thomas Williams, Jordan Senn and Omar Gaither in free agency as well, Conner becomes even more important to try to keep. Conner is as solid a backup linebacker as any in the league and it would not be a bad idea to try to keep him. He will likely want to start somewhere, however and barring injury it will not be in Carolina.
Antwan Applewhite – Linebacker and Defensive Line
Applewhite came out of nowhere it seems in 2011 to get himself noticed. A former Ron Rivera player in San Diego, Applewhite was all over the football field during the last part of the season. It seemed as though he found a way to blow up the football with regularity and I sincerely want him back in a Panthers uniform. His energy made the games even more exciting to me as a fan and his style of play was very popular in Charlotte. I think his potential is through the roof in this defense due to his flexibility.
Jordan Senn – Linebacker
As mentioned above, Jordan Senn is also a free agent in 2012. While Senn is no superstar yet, he certainly played like one the last several weeks of the 2011 season in relief of a depleted linebacking group. Consider that Senn had double digit tackles in four of his last six games of 2011 and you begin to see his value. This kid has a serious motor and will turn into a star for someone. Wrapping him up is a good idea for the Panthers, though I am not sure they are planning on it. Though slightly undersized, the Portland State graduate is still able to get the job done. His underdog aura makes him another popular player in the Charlotte area.