What Should The Panthers Do With Their New Found Cap Space?

Earlier this morning, news came out that DeAngelo Williams had restructured his contract with the Carolina Panthers.  The restructured deal which converted base pay into his remaining signing bonus keeps DeAngelo under contract till 2017, but more importantly creates a significant amount of cap flexibility for the cash strapped Panthers.  The new deal creates $3.2 million in cap space in 2013, $3.2 million in 2014, and $3.867 million in 2015.  The move puts the Panthers just under eight and a half million dollars under the salary cap, and it comes at a very good time for the staff in Charlotte.

There are two thoughts on how to use the cap space created today.  There is still a seemingly gaping hole in the secondary, and there just happens to be one big fish left at Cornerback in Free Agency.  Former Packers star Charles Woodson recently said he would play for any team in the NFL, and the Panthers could sure use his play making ability.  Woodson played safety for the Packers last year due to their surplus of Corners, but in 2011 at Cornerback he showed he is still an elite player at the position.  It has been rumored that Woodson is seeking $3 million for the 2013 season, which could certainly fit into the Panthers salary cap after Williams’ restructure.  But is it the best move for 2013 and beyond?

There’s also a cloud hanging over the Panthers with one of their own.  2012 standout Defensive End Greg Hardy is entering the last year of his rookie contract, and the former sixth rounder from Ole Miss will definitely be looking for a pay raise.  In theory, you could sign Woodson to play Corner this year and then sign Hardy to a long-term deal next year, but it may not be that simple.  Players on contract years like Hardy always seem to excel, and if he builds on his 2012 season he could play himself right out of the Panthers price range.  Of course you need two people to make a deal so Hardy would have to want to sign a contract extension.  However Hardy, who’s been on a sixth round contract since entering the league, may be more willing than most to sign a lucrative long-term deal to stay in Charlotte.  If that’s the case the Panthers have to do it in my opinion.  You not only keep the two best Defensive Ends in the NFC South together, but you also keep the defensive line as a potential strength of the team for the significant future.  More importantly it keeps one of the better young pass rushers in the NFL as a Panther instead of a Buccaneer, Falcon or Saint.

In my opinion the Panthers should look to lock up Hardy, and hope the old saying that a strong pass rush makes your backfield look stronger holds up.  While signing Woodson would be a nice luxury and a welcomed addition, Hardy playing somewhere else in 2014 and beyond could be devastating to the Panthers defense.  He’s developed into an exceptional pass rusher, who is also solid in run support.  He has now become a critical piece to the long-term success of this team, and is still young just entering the prime of his career.  You just don’t let players like that walk away if you can help it….

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