LAST YEAR: Panthers won third straight NFC South championship under NFL Coach of Year Ron Rivera and went to Super Bowl for second time in franchise history before losing to Denver 24-10. Quarterback Cam Newton had breakout season, winning league MVP honors while scoring combined 45 touchdowns. Carolina had league's highest-scoring offense in 2015.
Article continues below ...
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: CB James Bradberry, CB Daryl Worley, DT Vernon Butler.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: CB Josh Norman, CB Charles Tillman, WR Jerricho Cotchery, S Roman Harper, DE Jared Allen.
CAMP NEEDS: Carolina needs to figure out its cornerback situation following departure of last year's starters Norman and Tillman. They drafted three rookie cornerbacks hoping to fill void and will get Bene Benwikere back from broken leg. Carolina is counting on Kony Ealy to step up as pass rusher after outstanding performance in Super Bowl, but generating pass rush off corners could be concern. Look for team to continue working on contract extension for defensive tackle Kawann Short.
EXPECTATIONS: Panthers didn't do much in free agency outside of re-signing some core players to extensions, including offensive linemen Ryan Kalil and Michael Oher. Team feels its offense will be even better with return of wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin, 1,000-yard receiver as rookie in 2014 who spent last season on injured reserve with torn ACL. Carolina still has most dangerous quarterback in league in Newton, who seems to be improving with each passing season, and perhaps league's best linebacker corps with Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis and Shaq Thompson. Panthers should have good chance to win division if they can remain healthy.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL