The Carolina Panthers appear content at the moment to enter training camp with tight ends Greg Olsen, Gary Barnidge, Joe Jon Finley, and rookie Nelson Rosario. They also have a few blocking tight ends that are not going to be major contributors at the position in my view. In the wake of a 2011 season in which Olsen and veteran Jeremy Shockey combined for excellent production at the tight end position, one might wonder why the Panthers have not brought Shockey back. The most common reasons I hear are because they want to give youngsters the chance to grow with Cam Newton, his poor production over the past five years and his free agent demands. Here are three reasons why those things no longer matter and Shockey should be brought back to Carolina:
The youngsters can get plenty of reps with Shockey here.
Nelson Rosario and the gang are not going to suffer for lack of reps with Shockey in camp. Cam Newton runs an offense that stays on the field and spreads the ball around. Shockey being back would solidify the position and allow the youngsters to come along at a steady pace rather than be put under fire. Rosario in particular would benefit a great deal learning from the veteran Shockey.
Shockey's production is only half his value
While Shockey may have dropped in production over the last five years, he has a ton of experience to bring to the table. When Shockey needs to make a catch, he makes a catch. The guy is clutch most of the time and is excellent at positioning his body to prevent defenders from breaking up his catches. All of these things can be passed along to this next group of tight ends that Carolina will be working with. Shockey is a winner as well.
Shockey proved to be an awesome locker room force in 2011
When Shockey played for the New Orleans Saints and New York Giants, I have to admit I could not stand him. He always rubbed me wrong and seemed like the type of teammate that would always be at odds with the guys around him. Saints and Giants fans used to talk about how he was not like that and that he was a good locker room guy. I did not believe them. Now that I have watched him week after week for a full season in Carolina, I believe them wholeheartedly. I would gladly take a passionate, driven and fired up Shockey on my sideline. The guy motivates his teammates and works hard. What more could you ask for?
Shockey may carry some small negatives, but they are far outweighed by the positives he could bring to the Panthers in 2012. I think they should reach out and sign him right now. He would be a great addition that is already comfortable with the surroundings.
*Southern is a huge Carolina Panthers fan that is convinced that he will see a Super Bowl Trophy in Charlotte within five years.
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