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Monday, January 20, 2014
Ranking Carolina's free agents: Nos. 20, 21

By David Newton

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- I have ranked the 21 Carolina Panthers who are scheduled to become free agents in March.

As you can imagine, left tackle Jordan Gross and defensive end Greg Hardy are at or near the top of the list. But that will be revealed in time.

Starting today, beginning at the bottom of the ranking, I will list the players and whether they likely will fit into Carolina's future. If you agree or disagree, feel free to let me know.

It's not an exact science, and much will depend on the market, whether the team can find upgrades with free agents from other teams or how much their free agents are demanding.

As we get to the top 11, I'll reveal one at a time. For now we'll go in twos:

LaFell
20. WR Brandon LaFell: It may surprise you that I have the team's No. 2 receiver so low. Here's why: I don't think he offers enough to be the No. 2 receiver even though he has proven to be a solid blocker and he had a career-best 49 catches last season. I like what Ted Ginn and Domenik Hixon offer more as a third or fourth receiver, and both of them are free agents as well. The Panthers likely will address the No. 2 receiver in the draft or free agency, so it's time to part with LaFell. The team needs a more explosive weapon opposite Steve Smith. They also need a future replacement for Smith, who will be entering his 14th season. LaFell hasn't proven worthy of that.

Clausen
21. QB Jimmy Clausen: He only made this list because he technically is scheduled to become a UFA. He was cut during training camp last season, then reverted back to the team's injured reserve list because he was cut injured. I don't see any interest here unless the team has trouble re-signing backup Derek Anderson or officials simply want bodies for competition in camp. Having said that, they likely will look for new bodies. The team's second-round pick in 2010 hasn't been in a game since his rookie season when he threw nine interceptions to three touchdowns.