If you had told any knowledgeable Carolina Panthers fans back in 2009 that Jeff Otah would be traded in 2012 for a cup of coffee, not a single one of them would have believed it. The guy was simply a beast that seemed totally unstoppable. He was the ultimate force for a running game that was ready to explode with DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. At times, the guy would leave holes so wide that I think I might have been able to hit them in my prime.
As a huge Panthers fan, I have hoped for two years that Otah would recover from the repeated knee problems he suffered from. This was supposed to be the year...again. After another bitterly disappointing lead in to training camp, the Panthers finally cut ties with the big man. I actually find myself relieved in some ways.
When a player becomes a constant liability for any reason, you have to consider cutting ties with them. Jeff Otah was becoming a liability for a number of reasons.
He was starting to get a "soft" label, though that could be purely press driven. The fact is, he has been fighting off the same knee injury for what has become years now. That is a financial liability for the Panthers.
He has been a liability for planning purposes as well. Every season he was penciled in at right tackle and every season he ended up unable to play in the end. That messed around with draft pick needs, planning and even the advancement of other talent.
Otah was a liability in the locker room indirectly, if not directly. I have played football and been around many locker rooms and this type of thing can become a problem. Otah seems to have been well respected, but I guarantee the other offensive linemen got sick of the on again off again expectation of playing time. When a guy takes far longer than usual to recover from an injury, you have to question things.
The truth is, Otah is a huge man and does not have the typical situation. His knees are carrying a massive amount of weight around. Perhaps his injury is really not healing properly for those reasons. Whatever the case, Otah is still a liability from a business and fan's standpoint.
Jeff Otah is not your average guy and the New York Jets certainly were smart to pursue him. They got him for next to nothing, so if he pulls through for them and fixes that knee, he will be a huge asset. The fact remains, however, that the Carolina Panthers are better off now. They can move ahead with a modicum of certainty about their line and plan accordingly.
*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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