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Fantasy Football Free Agency Preview: Carolina Panthers

Free agency has a major impact on fantasy football. We’re a long way from the 2017 league year, but for dynasty team owners — especially those who’ve missed the playoffs — it’s never too early to start thinking about how player values could change.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll run through each team’s free agency situation using information from Over the Cap. I’ll use the Screener App as well as free agency status to identify potential team needs. I won’t speculate (too much) on destinations for certain players yet, but will offer some preliminary thoughts about possible value situations. As the offseason progresses, we’ll use the information in this series of articles to reach more specific conclusions about player movement and value changes.

Carolina Panthers

Free Agents

PLAYER POS TEAM TYPE 16 SAL 16 GUAR TEAM CAP
Fozzy Whittaker RB Panthers UFA $680,000 $50,000 $42,238,741
Ted Ginn WR Panthers UFA $2,100,000 $1,700,000 $42,238,741
Brenton Bersin WR Panthers RFA $600,000 $0 $42,238,741
Laron Byrd WR Panthers UFA $600,000 $0 $42,238,741
Corey Brown WR Panthers RFA $515,000 $15,000 $42,238,741

Cut Candidates

TEAM PLAYER POS DEAD $ CAP SAVINGS
PANTHERS E.DICKSON TE 0.67 2.1

Needs – RB, WR

Only Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess return at wide receiver, and Jonathan Stewart and Cameron Artis-Payne at running back. The need for depth at WR is apparent, and at RB Stewart will soon be 30, and Artis-Payne is still largely an unknown.

Discussion

As a team, the Panthers wide receivers rank just 21st (-0.02) in fantasy points over expectation per pass target. Maybe Cam Newton has something to do with that, but he’s not going anywhere. Individually, Kelvin Benjamin has had a solid season.

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That’s not up to the same level as his rookie campaign, but still decent. He’s a high-end WR3 now, and if you think it’s likely that Newton and the Panthers generally improve next year, then I think it’s reasonable to see Benjamin as a WR2 going forward, so I’d acquire at any discount to that.

The Devin Funchess breakout didn’t happen in 2016, but maybe 2017 is the year – if Ginn doesn’t return. Funchess’ primary value is probably as a hedge against a Benjamin or Greg Olsen injury. Apart from that, even if Ginn doesn’t return, he probably has a limited ceiling based on his production to date and the low number of team pass attempts. His comparable players this year include guys like Phillip Dorsett, Marquise Goodwin, and Andrew Hawkins. I’d take a cheap flyer on Funchess based on his youth and potential… but it’d have to be cheap.

At running back, Stewart will be entering his age 30 season with some questionable performance numbers.

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Stewart has only had positive efficiency once in the past four years, and doesn’t handle a large market share of rushing attempts. He’s also relatively uninvolved in the pass game. I’m fading Stewart. His age and recent performance don’t suggest great things going forward. I’m also not that interested in any RB that signs with Carolina, unless it’s one of the elite free agents. Cam Newton takes a big share of the rushing attempts, especially near the goal line, so the back would need to make hay in the pass game, and Carolina is one of the lower-volume passing teams.

Finally, Greg Olsen remains a solid hold and even an acquisition target. There have been 10 TEs to post 800 or more receiving yards after age 30. Six of them – including Olsen – repeated the feat at least once more.

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On a per-game basis, his 2016 is working out similarly to his other recent seasons. He may not have a long career window left, but I think a couple more TE1 seasons are a very reasonable expectation.

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