CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The pick: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
My take: General manager Dave Gettleman said he wouldn't hesitate to take a "blue goose" (rare) pass-rusher at end if one was available. He got a pretty good one in Ealy, who had 14.5 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks and 14 quarterback pressures this past season in the tough SEC. He'll provide depth for Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy and be insurance in case the Panthers can't sign Hardy (franchise tag) to a long-term deal or they decide to part with Johnson's big cap numbers after this season. The Panthers obviously put more value on Ealy than an offensive tackle like Morgan Moses, who remained on the board.
Message sent? The drafting of Ealy could send a message to Hardy that he needs to get a long-term deal done before the July deadline or he might become expendable after this season. It also could send a message to backup end Frank Alexander, who was suspended for the first four games for violating the league's substance abuse policy, that he might not have a future in Carolina. Even if it doesn't, it creates more competition at the end position, and this team is being built around competition.
What's next: Carolina still needs to take an offensive tackle, and there are several who should be on the board when they pick next at 92. I also wouldn't be surprised to see them take another wide receiver with the depth at that position still strong.