Just like that, David Tepper has hired three head coaches since purchasing the Carolina Panthers in 2018. Dave Canales will take his talent from one division rival to another after helping the Tampa Bay Buccaneers surpass expectations by winning the division and reaching the NFC Divisional Round.
But hiring a new head coach won’t immediately solve all of the Panthers’ issues. There’s still a lot more work to do to get this roster back to being competitive.
Pay Brian Burns what he’s earned
The Carolina Panthers selected Brian Burns 16th overall in the 2019 NFL Draft. He has racked up at least 7.5 sacks in each season since. While there are some who feel like Burns could be doing more, especially when seeing others like Myles Garrett and J.J. Watt consistently post double-digit sack seasons, the Panthers edge-rusher continues to post some of the best pressure rates in the NFL. In other words, the Panthers may need to focus on building a stronger secondary and getting Burns more help before deciding to let an elite talent walk away in free agency.
Trying to replace Burns while addressing other holes on a roster that finished with the league’s worst record may be too much of a burden for first-year GM Dan Morgan. The better alternative may simply be to pay Burns a long-term contract with a salary topping $20 million annually to ensure Carolina’s NFL-worst pass rush doesn’t somehow take an even bigger step back in 2024.
Reinforce offensive line through free agency
While adding a left tackle shouldn’t be completely out of question, there isn’t a blindside protector available who fits this team’s competitive timeline in free agency. In turn, keeping Ikem Ekwonu at left tackle may still be the best plan for this team. Ultimately, it would be best for the former top pick to develop into the player he was drafted to be.
But the Panthers can improve their offensive line in a big way by adding a versatile guard like Miami’s Robert Hunt or Rams guard Kevin Dotson, who ranked in the top ten at their position according to PFF in 2023. Both players are set for free agency, and Pro Football Focus projects each player to receive a contract worth roughly $17 million per season. Signing either starter could go a long way toward helping Bryce Young reach his potential in Carolina.
Carolina Panthers need a No. 1 receiver more than anything else
While the Panthers need to get better in the trenches, there’s no question they need to place a heavy emphasis on adding more talent to their receiver room too. While the Panthers could hold out and hope a top talent slips to the 33rd pick, can the Panthers really afford to wait for more young prospects to develop with Bryce Young needing to take a big step forward in his second season?
The Panthers do not have a first-round pick, but they do have a group of young players who could generate trade interest this offseason. That includes Brian Burns if he’s franchise tagged, but Carolina may be able to use a combination of picks and young players to convince a team like the Seattle Seahawks to part with DK Metcalf, depending on how bold the Panthers are willing to get.
Yet, prying Metcalf of San Francisco’s Brandon Aiyuk away from teams who likely have no interest in taking a step back in 2024 may be easier said than done, especially without a 2024 first-round pick at Carolina’s disposal. Still, that doesn’t mean Carolina’s front office shouldn’t explore every possible trade scenario for a playmaking wideout to pair with Jonathan Mingo and Adam Thielen next season.