Ranking Carolina's free agents: Nos. 16, 17

January, 22, 2014
Jan 22
8:00
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Day three of my ranking and evaluation of the 21 Carolina Panthers eligible to become unrestricted free agents revolves around a pair of linebackers.

To rehash, Nos. 18-21 were guard Geoff Hangartner, cornerback Drayton Florence, wide receiver Brandon LaFell and quarterback Jimmy Clausen.

Now we get to Nos. 16 and 17, Jason Williams and Dan Connor.

The Panthers are set in their top four linebackers in Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis, Chase Blackburn and A.J. Klein. They like Jordan Senn, also eligible to become a free agent, as a special teamer.

So it will come down to money and whether they see Williams and Connor as players who will contribute on special teams. In all likelihood, the team will replace them through the draft and/or free agency.

16. LB Jason Williams: He was released before the 2013 season began. He was re-signed in mid-October to take some of the special teams load off of Blackburn, who moved into the starting lineup at weakside linebacker to replace Jon Beason, who was traded to the Giants. Williams' blocked punt against the New York Jets with Carolina leading 16-13 in the fourth quarter was huge in a 30-20 win that kept the team alive for the NFC South title. He could return in a special teams role if the price is right.

17. LB Dan Connor: He signed a one-year deal in November when Blackburn was dealing with a foot injury. He was inactive the final two games and his only two tackles came on special teams. Since signing with Dallas in 2012 after having 75 tackles for Carolina in 2011, the former third-round pick out of Penn State has done little to justify a roster spot. It's highly unlikely with the current logjam at linebacker that he would be brought back.

David Newton | email

ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter

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