- David Newton, ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter
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Both were released at the end of training camp and brought back during the season because of injuries. Both wound up being invaluable in terms of experience and leadership.
Both are at the bottom of the list because they are near the end of their careers. Florence would be entering his 12th season. He told me before Carolina's playoff loss he wasn't sure he wanted to return, saying he might retire after the Panthers won the Super Bowl.
That obviously didn't happen.
Here's a look at both:
18. Geoff Hangartner: The Panthers let him go in August because they wanted to build around young players such as Amini Silatolu and Edmund Kugbila. Silatolu suffered a season-ending ACL knee injury in the fourth game and Kugbila was placed on injured reserve before the season. Hangartner will be entering his 10th season. He was on the field for only two plays in the regular-season finale. With Silatolu and Kugbila back, along with Chris Scott and Nate Chandler, making the roster and guard would be a long shot.
19. Drayton Florence: The Panthers were 0-2 when the Panthers had a rash of injuries to the secondary during a Week 2 loss to Buffalo. They were 12-3 with him, including the playoffs. He played a big role in nickel coverage, but more importantly helped bring stability and a sense of camaraderie to the unit by taking them out to team dinners and building team unity. He brought the Ric Flair "Wooooo!'' chant to the team that was inspirational until Flair became a San Francisco fan. But he'd be returning for a 12th season, and he's already hinted at retirement. This could be the end of the line for him.
Next up on my ranking and evaluation of Carolina's 21 players eligible to become unrestricted free agents are Nos. 18 and 19, guard Geoff Hangartner and cornerback Drayton Florence.