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Carolina Panthers sign Pro Bowl CB A.J. Bouye: Two moves that should come next

The Carolina Panthers have been extremely active over the past few days. After acquiring quarterback Sam Darnold in a blockbuster trade with the New York Jets earlier in the week, Carolina has now found an upgrade on the other side of the ball.

The Panthers announced Wednesday evening that they have signed Pro Bowl cornerback A.J. Bouye after his release from the Denver Broncos earlier in the offseason.

Suspended for the first two games of the 2021 season after violating the NFL’s PED policy, Bouye will still be eligible to play 15 games for the Panthers. He adds much-needed experience to a greenish secondary.

The Central Florida product broke out big time as a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars back in 2017, recording 18 passes defended and six interceptions while yielding a sub 60 passer rating when targeted. It earned the 29-year-old defensive back his first and only Pro Bowl appearance.

After some inconsistent performances in the two seasons following that breakout campaign, Bouye was traded to the Broncos ahead of the 2020 campaign. He ultimately appeared in just seven games. Bouye’s release came while he was still in the midst of a five-year, $67.5 million contract he had signed with Jacksonville back in March of 2017.

If Bouye can come anywhere near close to performing at the level we saw during his Pro Bowl season with Jacksonville, it’s going to help the Carolina Panthers in a big way. Their defense yielded 28 passing touchdowns against seven interceptions this past season. In the midst of an active stretch to the NFL offseason, here’s a look at two other moves Carolina should make.

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Carolina Panthers must find another receiver for Sam Darnold

Carolina Panthers sign Golden Tate
New York Giants wide receiver Golden Tate (15) walks off the field after a 25-23 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at MetLife Stadium on Monday, Nov. 2, 2020, in East Rutherford. Nyg Vs Tb (© Danielle Parhizkaran/NorthJersey.com via Imagn Content Services, LLC)

The departure of 2020 breakout performer Curtis Samuel to the Washington Football team in free agency hurt Carolina big time. Sure it has stud young receiver D.J. Moore and a player in Robby Anderson who boasts a built-in relationship with Darnold.

Even then, first-year general manager Scott Fitterer must find another capable veteran pass-catcher for the struggling Darnold if he expects the quarterback to turn things around.

As we saw during his time with Darnold in New York, Anderson could play the slot. This gives Carolina an opportunity to look at multiple types of receivers in what is a weakened free-agent class at that position. Recently released by the New York Giants, Golden Tate could be an option in the slot with Anderson remaining outside. Meanwhile, Alshon Jeffery might be able to provide Darnold with that big-bodied possession receiver the Panthers are missing right now.

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Carolina Panthers need safety help

Carolina Panthers sign Kenny Vaccaro
Dec 6, 2020; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Cleveland Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry (80) is stopped short of the goal line by Tennessee Titans strong safety Kenny Vaccaro (24) during the first half at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

A second-round pick last year, Jeremy Chinn looks every bit the part of a Pro Bowl performer at free safety. In fact, he can play both safety spots as well as linebacker. Last season saw Chinn record 117 tackles, five passes defended, two forced fumbles and two touchdowns.

With that said, there’s certainly a need at strong safety. The likes of Juston Burris and Sam Franklin aren’t going to cut it. While the Carolina Panthers could look to the 2021 NFL Draft for help here, there’s some nice talent remaining on the free agent market. Veterans Kenny Vaccaro and Karl Joseph could make sense.