Expect Panthers to move for Buccaneers castoff J.R. Sweezy

Carolina Panthers

The Panthers are still searching for a guard to take Andrew Norwell’s place. J.R. Sweezy could be the answer for Carolina.

Letting Andrew Norwell leave in free agency was a tough decision for the Carolina Panthers this summer. His departure leaves a significant hole for Ron Rivera at left guard. Former Buccaneers lineman J.R. Sweezy could provide the Panthers the perfect replacement.

Tampa Bay is releasing Sweezy to avoid paying him the $6.5 million they were due to pay him this season. The former N.C. State star signed a five-year, $32.5 million deal with the Bucs before the 2017 season, but injuries have prevented him from living up to the deal. He missed all of 2017 with a back injury, and Sweezy was forced to miss Tampa Bay’s mandatory minicamp with a leg injury this season. Evidently, the Buccaneers weren’t willing to wait around to see if he could return to full health.

It’s worth noting that reports claim Sweezy has been cleared to return to all football activities. That means any team that signs him can expect him to be a full participant in their preseason program. The Panthers should be very interested in seeing what Sweezy can provide their offense.

Carolina surprised many fans and NFL executives by not moving for a high-profile replacement for Norwell this summer. The team did bring in Jeremiah Sirles from Minnesota via free agency, but he doesn’t project as anything more than an adequate starter. Amini Silatolu and Taylor Moton are both competing with Sirles for the starting left guard spot, but it’s an open competition at this point.

Adding a veteran like Sweezy would be a clever move by Marty Hurney and company. If he can make it through the season healthy, Sweezy could give Norv Turner’s running game a serious boost. Cam Newton gets all the headlines in Charlotte, but the team’s offensive success is predicated on their ability to run the football. A strong offensive line is an absolute requirement for Carolina.

Ultimately, signing Sweezy would be a risk-free move for the Panthers. His injury history means he’ll struggle to find a team willing to offer him guaranteed money on the open market. The Panthers can bring him into training camp and evaluate whether or not his body will allow him to be a productive NFL player in 2018. If it will, he could give the team one of the summer’s most underrated signings. If not, they can release him just as the Buccaneers did.

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