It's too early for '09 season previews, and too late for '08 season reviews. What's an NFL blog to do in the never-ending quest to overcover the bejeezus out of the NFL? Offseason progress reports. Let's go in alphabetical order. Today, the Carolina Panthers.
Free agents gained: None
It's been a pretty uneventful offseason for the Panthers, with the exception of the Julius Peppers(notes) situation. And I don't even know if the Julius Peppers situation qualifies as a situation, because he's probably not going anywhere. He's got a huge cap number and he wants a new contract, and there just aren't many teams out there in a position to give it to him. Especially when you factor in the draft picks they'd have to give Carolina on top of it.
I think the "Julius Peppers situation" has turned into "Julius Peppers and the Carolina Panthers are stuck with one another," and that's just going to have to be okay with both of them. Peppers gets over $16 million for one season, and the Panthers get a guy knows he has to have a good year, or no one will want to pay him. Both sides need to just embrace the reality.
The biggest change the Panthers will see in 2009 will be in defensive scheme, as former Colts defensive coordinator Ron Meeks takes over the same job in Carolina. He'll bring in a Tampa-2 scheme, as well as a burst of energy. If Peppers is around, and with Jon Beason(notes) in the middle, he's got some fun toys to work with.
Other than that, the biggest changes for the Panthers will be Richard Marshall(notes) stepping in for the departed Ken Lucas at corner, and the possible insertion of DE Everette Brown into the lineup. The Panthers gave up next year's first-round pick to grab him in the second round this year, so it's pretty important that he contributes right away.
Also, for some reason, the Panthers gave Jake Delhomme(notes) a big new contract extension. I've got no quarrel with Jake Delhomme. As a starting quarterback in the NFL, he's fine, I suppose. But he's 34 years old, coming off an absurdly bad playoff performance, and not a superstar. Why commit $20 million guaranteed to him? Really, why?
Progress: Honestly, I don't see a lot here. The emergence of DeAngelo Williams(notes) as a star running back is exciting for 2009, but some offensive line depth is gone, there's still no one formidable playing across from Steve Smith, and Jake Delhomme is still Jake Delhomme. And while the defense might be improved under Meeks, I don't see any reason to bank on that as truth.
Minus 3 games. 12-4 last year, 9-7 this year.