NFC South: Vonnie Holliday
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
We'll continue our series of mini-mailbags (two questions per team) with the Carolina Panthers.
Jay in parts unknown writes: Hypothetically Pat, if the Panthers got rid of Julius today, what moves do you think we would make, if any, before the draft? Bring in someone like Vonnie Holliday or Jason Taylor, or maybe bring in Leftwich to compete w/ Jake?
Pat Yasinskas: Hypothetically speaking, trading Julius Peppers would instantly free up $17 million in cap space. Now, that doesn't mean the Panthers suddenly would go on a huge spending spree. They'd need to keep about $3 million (that number will only jump higher if they get draft picks in return for Peppers) in cap space just to be able to take part in the draft. They'd probably also go out and re-sign long-snapper Jason Kyle. But they'd have enough cap space to start filling some holes, mainly along the defensive line. I could see them pursuing someone like Vonnie Holliday, who has ties to the Carolinas and probably wouldn't cost too much. But don't look for the Panthers to suddenly go crazy in free agency. First, there's not a lot left out there. Second, John Fox and Marty Hurney generally stay away from big free-agent moves. If anything, they'll go through the draft and, then, so who's still out there and make a couple of moves to plug some holes. As for the quarterback situation, I won't rule out the Panthers adding one in the draft. But if the Panthers wanted a veteran free agent to compete with Jake Delhomme, don't you think they already would have signed him and let him start learning the offense?
Troy in N.O. writes: Pat, you always refer to the Panther's organization as averse to troublesome personalities. How do you square this aversion with their loyalty to Steve Smith?
Pat Yasinskas: Great question. The Panthers make a lot of noise about staying clear of guys with character issues and that's something they back up, for the most part. But I can tell you Carolina's scouts take some ribbing around the league when they tell other scouts a guy is off their radar because of character issues. The standard response is, "What about Steve Smith?'' and Carolina scouts generally are left to roll their eyes, smile and shrug their shoulders. There's no doubt the Panthers have bent some rules for Smith. He's had altercations with teammates at least three times, that we know of and has been suspended by the team, without pay, twice. But he's also played at an elite level and done some positive things in the community. Fox and Hurney made a conscious decision to hitch their wagon to Smith and they must feel like the good outweighs the bad.
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
That's something that should have happened over a decade ago. It seemed like a sure thing in 1998 that Holliday, a defensive end who went to college at North Carolina and grew up in South Carolina, would be Tampa Bay's first-round draft pick.
It seemed so obvious that even former Carolina personnel guru Dom Anile publicly said he'd be dancing in the streets if Holliday was available when the Panthers picked. Turned out Holliday was available.
But the Panthers, somehow, decided to draft Nebraska defensive end Jason Peter. That turned out to be one of the worst moves in Carolina history -- and the Panthers have had more than their share of bad ones, especially in their early years.
Peter was plagued by injuries and off-field problems and never developed into much. Holliday, who was drafted by Green Bay, hasn't had a spectacular career, but he has been a solid player. Imagine what he might have done if Carolina had taken him?
Well, it's a completely different situation now. But it could be more than a little ironic if Holliday ends up in Carolina after all these years. Don't rule it out. The Panthers like to bring players from the Carolinas home and they have a need at defensive end with the Julius Peppers' situation still up in the air. Also, at this point in his career, Holliday doesn't command a big salary and that could be attractive to the salary cap-strapped Panthers.