This past Tuesday the NFL unveiled the new Nike uniforms for all 32 teams. Most all looked about the same, except for the Seattle Seahawks and our own Carolina Panthers. The new logo is featured, as well as the words, “Keep Pounding” embroidered in the neck line. It was great to see the new look, but what I kept wondering was whether we would see Stewart on a number 28 Panthers jersey this season.
We’ve talked a lot this offseason about how the salary cap has prevented the Falcons, Panthers and Saints from doing everything they would like in free agency.
Well, guess what? The 2013 free-agency period is pretty much guaranteed to be even quieter than this year. Even the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who made a huge splash in free agency, are likely to join the club.
I got a look at what all NFL teams currently have committed toward the 2013 salary cap and the picture isn’t very pretty. The Saints have been back-loading contracts, the Bucs have been front-loading them and the Falcons and Panthers have done some restructuring that takes up more 2013 cap room.
The Panthers have signed free agent safety Reggie Smith.
Smith played the last four seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, who took him in the third round of the 2008 NFL draft out of Oklahoma. Smith (6-foot-1, 200 pounds) also played on San Francisco’s special teams, which has been an area of concern for Carolina.
“Reggie has been on our radar since the beginning of free agency and is a player we think can come in and compete at safety,” said Carolina general manager Marty Hurney in a statement. “We brought him in for a visit Tuesday and it worked out. He is another player we’ve added to increase the competition.”
Smith played in all 18 games for San Francisco last season (including two playoff games) and had 16 tackles and one interception in the regular season. Smith had six special teams tackles in the regular season and two in the playoffs.
Smith played 44 games for the 49ers and had seven starts, with 54 tackles, two interceptions and seven passes defended. — David Scott
The Carolina Panthers made a big splash last summer when the NFL lockout ended. They signed their star players to big contracts at a dizzying rate and traded for tight end Greg Olsen to give their rookie quarterback a security-blanket target it turned out he didn’t need.
Free agency this year hasn’t been about big splashes; it has been about filling needs.
A week before free agency opened, the Carolina Panthers were among the teams over the NFL’s salary cap, forcing a few cuts and restructures.
That’s limited much of what they were going to do in the market — though it wasn’t going to be much anyway.
The bigger moves are ones they’ll make with their own players, and two of their key offensive cogs are at pivot points going into this season.
This is a move that gives the Panthers some solid depth behind Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy. I’m not prepared to say this takes Carolina out of the mix for North Carolina defensive end Quinton Coples if he’s available with the No. 9 pick in the draft. Coples could be a special player and the Panthers may take him, if they really like him.
The former coaches of Haruki Nakamura and Mike Tolbert – two of the Panthers’ free agent acquisitions – say each player will help Carolina’s special teams.
A big part of the Panthers’ offseason focus has been improving a special teams unit that was among the worst in the league last season in many statistical categories. The Panthers hired Richard Rodgers, Ron Rivera’s teammate at Cal, as the assistant special teams coach, and brought in several players with a proven track record on special teams.