Carolina Panthers’ roster needs that go beyond 2024 NFL Draft: Long-term plan at ILB?

The Carolina Panthers want to be better in 2024. But they also understand that the upcoming season is more of a building block than a well-paved ceiling for the franchise.

So, general manager Dan Morgan, operations executive Brandt Tilis and the rest of the brain trust are planning for the NFL Draft in hopes of addressing both current and future needs. While the Panthers have plenty of areas of immediate need, they’re not going to ignore the trajectory of future seasons as they get ready to use two picks within the top 40 selections this weekend.

“I think you always got to talk about succession planning,” Morgan said Thursday. “And that’s stuff that we definitely talk about. Myself, along with Brandt, and (head coach Dave Canales) — we sit there and we talk about the roster. Not just now, in the short-term view, but we’re going to look at it in the long-term view as well.”

Canales, the first-year head coach, appears to be in lock step with Morgan within the scope of long-term planning. The former Buccaneers offensive coordinator has routinely stated that he wants to challenge the incumbent roster with new arrivals every offseason. But those challenges can also come from within the organization as the team develops young talent from the annual draft over the years.

“So if it’s free agency or the draft, let’s attack all of our spots,” Canales said. “Because we don’t want any of our players to be complacent and just be sitting there and be like, ‘Hey I got this.’ No, we’re growing.”

Carolina Panthers head coach Dave Canales responds to a question during a pre-draft press conference at Bank of America Stadium on Thursday, April 18, 2024. JEFF SINER/
Carolina Panthers head coach Dave Canales responds to a question during a pre-draft press conference at Bank of America Stadium on Thursday, April 18, 2024. JEFF SINER/

With succession planning serving as a large part of the roster-building process, the Panthers are likely to upgrade a few depth spots in the later rounds in order to create cost-controlled opportunities down the road. Draft picks are signed to affordable four-year deals, which could help the Panthers save some cash in the future with worthwhile development.

Here are five positions primed for succession planning entering the 2024 NFL Draft:

Inside linebacker

Longtime leader Shaq Thompson turned 30 on Sunday. He is coming off a serious leg injury and entering the final year of his reworked contract. While the team signed Josey Jewell — who also turns 30 in December — to a three-year deal in free agency, Thompson’s spot seems destined for a succession plan. Given Thompson’s age, recent injury history and contract status, the Panthers are likely to target a young prospect to upgrade the third inside linebacker spot on the depth chart with the hopes that the rookie can eventually take over for Thompson.


Austin Corbett, like Thompson, is entering the final year of his contract. He is also set to convert to center with limited recent experience at the position. Set to turn 29 in September, Corbett’s move to the middle isn’t a sure bet. However, the brass seems very confident in his one-year audition at the center spot. Still, smart squads prepare for the worst — and the future — and landing a rookie center prospect in the draft would be a wise move. With several notable options in this year’s class, the Panthers don’t need to rush a selection on Day 2 and could easily bring in a late-round prospect for long-term insurance.

Nickel cornerback

The Panthers re-signed Troy Hill to a one-year deal in March. Hill will turn 33 this season, and he plays a position that typically doesn’t age all that well. Hill has plenty of experience with the staff, so he will be given the benefit of the doubt this summer, but addressing the nickel corner position in the draft seems like a good idea. The class features quite a few “nickel only” corners with playmaking skill sets. While boundary corner is still a major concern, the nickel spot might be the easiest to upgrade for the long haul in the draft.


The safety depth chart is fine for this season. However, the majority of the group isn’t under contract beyond 2024. Jared Fuller, Xavier Woods, Sam Franklin and Nick Scott are all set to hit free agency next offseason, so the Panthers could see their safety position go from solid to potentially dissolved within 12 months. That’s why it might make sense to spend a draft pick on a young safety, who would then receive a cheap four-year deal.

Slot receiver

Adam Thielen is coming off a strong 100-catch, 1,000-yard season. However, he is set to turn 34 in August. With the Panthers set to address their wideout need this weekend, it would make sense to double dip at the position. Thielen primarily operates out of the slot, so finding a pass-catcher who could eventually succeed him would be ideal for long-term planning. Again, adding two receiver prospects seems to be an ideal strategy, so the Panthers could plot out a pick for the immediate need and another for the future in theory.

Other spots to think about

The Panthers have a few other aging spots — with short-term contract outlooks — to consider.

Right tackle Taylor Moton and backup quarterback Andy Dalton could be veteran players with limited runways, as a new regime could eventually decide to move on from both of them. The Panthers signed swing tackle Yosh Nijman in free agency, and in theory, he could be looked at as a potential successor for Moton. Canales has also said he wants an experienced No. 3 quarterback, and that player could still be a young signal-caller in his mid-20s who could eventually replace Dalton behind Bryce Young.

At running back, the Panthers have a legitimate immediate need. However, with Chuba Hubbard in the final year of his rookie deal and Miles Sanders struggling last season, the Panthers could look at the draft as a way to get ahead of a potential 2025 exodus for the veteran running backs. Tight end is another position with a short-term outlook, as Tommy Tremble, Ian Thomas and Stephen Sullivan are all set to be free agents next offseason.