Last week, running back DeAngelo Williams said he was "still in shock" at how the Panthers' offseason had unfolded. Namely: The team parted ways with veteran wide receivers Steve Smith, Ted Ginn, Brandon LaFell and Domenik Hixon, and waited until late last month to begin to replace them.
Wideouts Jerricho Cotchery, Jason Avant, Tiquan Underwood, and tight end Ed Dickson have since been signed, but the team is expected to find more warm bodies in next month's NFL Draft. For the time being, Williams has some advice for fantasy football players.
“I joked with people that my fantasy value went up after we got rid of our four receivers, but it's the truth,” Williams said last week on "NFL AM" (via the Charlotte Observer's Joe Person). “I went from probably being drafted in the fifth and sixth round to being in the first round -- me and Jonathan (Stewart) alike because we have no receivers.”
But it's not just the Panthers' running backs facing pressure to produce with Smith et al now elsewhere, the tight ends will need to step up too.
“I know everyone at one point was kind of panicking," tight end Greg Olsen told Person, echoing Williams' sentiments. "Would it have been nice to have those (receivers) back? Of course.
“But I think we've signed a lot of guys that can fill a lot of those roles,” Olsen continued. “We're putting it together. It's hard to judge a team in March. When the season gets closer, that will be a better example of what our team is."
As always, the conversation starts with the quarterback. And as long as Cam Newton plays well -- he threw for 3,379 yards, 24 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, and ran for 6 more scores last season -- the Panthers will be in the mix in the NFC South. Of course, that task becomes much easier if Newton has capable receivers to throw to. (And he's able to, you know, walk.)
As it stands, Cotchery and Avant, veterans more suited for No. 3 roles, top the depth chart. But wide receiver draft class is considered the deepest in decades, and along with adding depth along the offensive line, expect the Panthers to draft a few wide receivers too.
In the meantime, Olsen has full faith in the coaching staff and front office.
“There is a plan," he said. "We have to trust in that. Mr. Gettleman's done an awesome job since he's gotten here in a short time putting pieces in place to fill holes. And doing so with guys other people maybe overlooked. Last year a lot of the guys that came in were in that type of situation and were huge parts of our team.”