The Panthers also decimated the talent level at cornerback on their depth chart and will now have to seriously address bringing in talented help via free agency or the draft. The move was fiscally necessary, but now there’s work to do for general manager Dave Gettleman.
Gamble played just four games last season after being placed on injured reserve with a torn right labrum. But no one pulled down more interceptions in 2011 than Gamble’s three, and he led or tied for the team lead five other times in his nine-year tenure with the Panthers.
The Panthers now have just six cornerbacks on the roster, but two—Captain Munnerlyn and Nate Ness will hit free agency on March 12. That leaves James Dockery, Nick Hixson, Josh Norman and Joshua Thomas as the only cornerbacks on the roster under contract into and beyond the 2013 season.
Norman, who was a regular before being benched for his final four games of his rookie season, picked off one pass and has plenty of offseason work to do to show head coach Ron Rivera he can be a productive member of the Panthers defensive backfield.
Thomas took over for Norman and was evaluated as a future nickel back. He’s got great speed and plays a tough corner position but isn’t the answer as a starting cornerback.
Dockery saw very little time on defense, and Hixson didn’t play a single defensive snap last season.
To be competitive, especially playing in the NFC South that features opposing quarterbacks like Drew Brees and Matt Ryan, Carolina is going to need to add at least one, possibly two starting cornerbacks before training camp.
Norman was continually picked on by opposing quarterbacks last year and is working hard in the offseason just for a shot at earning his way back onto the field.
With only one interception among the four returning players at cornerback, the Panthers are going to have to beef up the position fast.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and statements were obtained firsthand.