NFL Carolina Panthers

5 Underrated Free Agents the Carolina Panthers Should Target This Offseason

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5 Underrated Free Agents the Carolina Panthers Should Target This Offseason

Carolina Panther NFL Free Agenc
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The Carolina Panthers were one of the best surprises of the season in 2013. They shed their immature, underachieving labels and kicked down the door to world of legitimate NFL contenders. The problem for them now is that they will no longer be seen as the lucky underdog who overachieved to get into the playoffs; they’ll be a team that’s expected to compete for a title.

That transformation begins this offseason. The Panthers find themselves in rough NFL waters. It’s not that hard to go from really bad to kinda good in pro football. When you’re really bad you draft a quarterback, then put a few good players around him and before you know it you’re sneaking into the playoffs. Now they need to make smart, strategic moves that will solidify them as a Super Bowl contender for years to come.

And the key to that will be mining the free agent market for undervalued players who can fit specific roles. Those are the kind of players who can take you from a good story to a real championship team.

The Panthers don’t have too many holes to fill. They wouldn’t have been so good if they did, but they were sorely lacking for offensive playmakers to complement franchise quarterback Cam Newton. This year’s free agent crop is loaded with them, and the Panthers should be able to sign at least one or two underrated guys who can take them over the top next year.

Carolina had a breakout season last year. If they want to keep themselves from ending up as a one-year wonder they should target these five underrated free agents this offseason.

Ben Sullivan is an NFL writer for Follow him on Twitter @bensullivan52, "Like" him on Facebook and add him to your network on Google.

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5. Dexter McCluster

Dexter McCluster
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Overall speed on the offensive side, or the lack thereof, was the biggest issue for the Panthers last season. They need playmakers on offense, and Dexter McCluster is a burner who can take it to the house every time he touches the ball.

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4. Randy Starks

Randy Starks
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The Panthers could use some help up the middle of their defensive line. They should take a long, hard look at veteran Randy Starks, a big-bodied defensive tackle who racked up 49 tackles and four sacks in 2013. He could give them some size where they need it the most.

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3. Jacoby Ford

Jacoby Ford
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Speed, speed and some more speed is needed on the Carolina offense next year. Four-year man Jacoby Ford can bring plenty of quickness and straight ahead speed to the field for them at a bargain price.

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2. Brandon Pettigrew

Brandon Pettigrew
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The Panthers got a really good year out of tight end Greg Olsen last year, but he’s not a guy you can count on year in and year out. They would be smart to grab the underrated Brandon Pettigrew as an insurance policy in case Olsen misses time.

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1. Jeremy Maclin

Jeremy Maclin
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Jeremy Maclin might end up being the best value on the free agent market this offseason. Because he went down with a knee injury before his contract year even started, he’s likely to get a lukewarm reception from teams. He’s tough over the middle and runs good routes. He’d be a great No. 2 receiver to pair with Steve Smith.