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We'll start of our series of post-draft team-by-team mailbags with the Carolina Panthers.
Darlene in Charlotte writes: Pat, let me see if I understand the Julius Peppers' situation correctly: He can (1) sign the tender and play up to par for the Panthers in 2009, at approximately $1M per game; (2) sign the tender and just basically "suit up" but not play up to expectations; (3) not sign the tender, sit out the season, forfeit the entire $17M, and at the end of the 2009 season be an unrestricted free agent, but substantially reduce his value to another team; or (4) sign the tender and see if one of the teams to which he wants to be traded will offer what the Panthers consider fair compensation? Does this pretty much sum up his options? If he does not show up for minicamp on Friday, will that actually be indicative of his decision, or could it just be that he doesn't feel with his years of experience, his attendance is necessary?
Pat Yasinskas: Yes, I think you've got a pretty good grip on the situation. The two things I would add are that the Panthers can use the franchise tag on Peppers again next offseason and the fact that his agent still is allowed to solicit trade offers even though he hasn't signed the tender. As far as Peppers showing up at minicamp later this week, that's going to be a very interesting situation. I suspect whatever he decides will be a strong indication of his intentions. If he doesn't show, it won't be because he's comfortable with his experience. It will be because he still isn't comfortable with the idea of returning to the Panthers. As I've said before, this saga still is far from over.
Mike in Raleigh writes: Quick question Pat... I know we lost Goings,but was there a NEED to replace him with 2 more running backs. I think we had bigger needs at OL. We were pretty banged up last year, so I don't think it would have hurt to get another aside from the Oklahoma pick. Also we could have gotten Brandon Tate if i recall. Just the 2 RB doesn't make sense to me...
Pat Yasinskas: Nick Goings was probably one of the most underrated players in Carolina history. True, he was far from a star, but he did a whole bunch of little things for this team and those things have to be replaced. The Panthers went out and drafted running back Mike Goodson and fullback Tony Fiammetta to try to compensate for the loss of Goings. Goodson can do a lot of the same things as Goings out of the backfield as a third tailback behind Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams. He also has ability as a return man and can play elsewhere on special teams. Fiammetta is a strong blocker and this move may end up being crucial. Starting fullback Brad Hoover has taken a pounding through the years and the Panthers needed to get a strong insurance policy behind him. I think these were big needs and the Panthers took care of them.
Ronnie in Greensboro writes: Hey Pat, Just looking at the NFC South, Im picking the Panthers again. Im seeing 21/22 starters from a 12-4 team come back and they added some much needed pieces, if you think about it, the Panthers missed a true pass rush last season, Im thinkin if Brown delivers, the Panthers are going far into the playoffs, and I also believe Jake bounces back big time this season. Your thoughts?
Pat Yasinskas: Wow, an optimist who is not bashing Jake Delhomme. I like it. Well, you certainly are looking at it the way John Fox and Marty Hurney are. Yes, there haven't been any dramatic moves in Carolina, but returning all but one starter from a 12-4 team is not a bad spot to be in.
JT in Spartanburg writes: Hey Pat...opinions vary on the Panthers trading next years pick to draft a situational pass rusher in Brown. What's your take on it? Most folks say he will be used primarily on passing downs...if so, who do they start if Peppers gets traded? Thank you sir...
Pat Yasinskas: I know the decision to trade away next year's first-round pick to take Everette Brown in the second round this year has drawn some criticsim. But I don't think this is a bad move because the Panthers and some other teams had a first-round grade on Brown. I don't think the Panthers would have made this move if they didn't believe that Brown can be more than a situational pass rusher -- at least in the long term. I also think the Panthers will at some point (whether it's this offseason or next) trade Julius Peppers and get back into next year's first round.