Carolina free agent rankings: No. 9

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- No. 9 in my ranking and evaluation of the 21 Carolina Panthers scheduled to become unrestricted free agents is a player coming off a career season.

Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn.

I struggled with where to put Munnerlyn. On one hand, he played well enough for the most part to be among the top five free agents, a no-brainer to return. On the other, the Panthers are looking to improve, and the area that needs the most improvement is the secondary.

To review where we've been so far:

  • No. 21 quarterback Jimmy Clausen, No. 20 wide receiver Brandon LaFell, No. 19 cornerback Drayton Florence, No. 18 guard Geoff Hangartner, No. 17 linebacker Dan Connor, No. 16 linebacker Jason Williams, No. 15 tackle Bruce Campbell, No. 14 cornerback James Dockery, No. 13 defensive tackle Colin Cole, No. 12 guard Travelle Wharton, No. 11 linebacker Jordan Senn and No. 10 quarterback Derek Anderson.To No. 9:

    Captain Munnerlyn: He had a career-best 78 tackles and three sacks. He had two interceptions, and returned both for touchdowns. He proved he could be an every-down cornerback, and can move into the slot in nickel situations. In many ways, he epitomized the toughness that defensive coordinator Sean McDermott preached. At the same time, you can't help but see visions of Miami receiver Mike Wallace beating Munnerlyn deep -- twice for long catches, another on an overthrown pass. You can't help but wonder if the 5-foot-9 Munnerlyn could have made the play that 6-3 Richard Sherman made to put Seattle in the Super Bowl. If the price is right, Munnerlyn should be back. But he said after the season he wanted a long-term deal, and to be compensated for everything he proved this season. That might put a team with limited cap space in position to look in another direction.