By Keith Alrick @Kramerica100 on July 3, 2014
The Carolina Panthers took a big step forward last season by winning the NFC South. Panthers GM Dave Gettleman didn't have a lot of cap space in the offseason, but he managed to bring in some players who should be able to improve the team. Carolina's chances of repeating as division champs could come down to how much these new players help the team. Here are the five additions that have the most to offer Carolina in 2014.
Antoine Cason has been a very consistent cornerback throughout his career. The six-year NFL veteran signed a one-year contract with Carolina in the offseason. He hasn't missed a single game in his career and has recorded at least two interceptions each season. Cason will step into the starting lineup with the departures of Captain Munnerlyn and Drayton Florence.
Carolina took Kony Ealy in the second round of the NFL Draft. It was a surprise at the time because he plays a position of strength for the Panthers, but a few things have happened during the offseason that will make Ealy more valuable than originally thought. Greg Hardy has had offseason troubles and Frank Alexander was suspended for four games. These issues will force Ealy into the lineup earlier than expected.
The Panthers completely rebuilt their wide receiving corps in the offseason. Jerricho Cotchery was the highest profile free agent signing for Carolina. He had a career-high 10 touchdowns last season. Cotchery will have a larger role in this offense than he did in Pittsburgh because of the overhaul at wide receiver in Carolina. The biggest question will be how he responds to having a bigger role.
The Panthers had to replace both safety positions in the offseason. Carolina signed Thomas DeCoud to a two-year deal to fill one of the needs. He made the Pro Bowl in 2012 but struggled most of last season. He should have the opportunity to make a lot of big plays this season because of how good the Panthers' front seven is.
As stated earlier, the Panthers cleaned house in the receiving department. Carolina signed three free agents to fill the need, but the biggest move was drafting Kelvin Benjamin. The Panthers' first-round pick will likely be Cam Newton's No. 1 wide receiver option with the most physical talent among the team's receivers. Benjamin has a lot of upside and has a chance to give the Panthers' offense a nice boost this season.
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