Panthers Notebook: Otah traded to Jets
Right tackle Jeff Otah was traded to the Jets, who sent an undisclosed conditional draft pick to the Panthers.
Otah was a first-round pick by the Panthers in 2008, and was viewed as one of the best young right tackles in the game. He helped pave the way for running backs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart to become the first teammates in NFL history to each run for more than 1,100 yards in the same season in 2009.
However, he has run into injuries that have derailed his very promising career. Otah missed the 2010 season with a knee injury. He returned last season, but suffered a concussion and a back injury in September and landed on injured reserve on Oct. 19 with another knee injury.
The Panthers acquired Bruce Campbell from Oakland during the offseason, and he's expected to compete with Byron Bell, an undrafted rookie who started 12 games in Otah's place last season.
--The Panthers also acquired wide receiver Louis Murphy from the Raiders for an undisclosed conditional draft pick.
Murphy has 90 career receptions for 1,371 yards and six touchdowns in three seasons since being a fourth-round pick out of Florida. However, he posted career lows of 15 catches for 241 yards and no touchdowns in 11 games last season.
The Panthers have no proven options behind Steve Smith at wide receiver. Brandon LaFell, a third-round pick in 2010, had 36 catches for 613 yards and three touchdowns last season and is the probable starter opposite Smith.
David Gettis is also expected to be in the mix to battle for the starting spot opposite Smith, although Gettis opened camp on the physically unable to perform list because of a knee injury.
--The Panthers are thin at defensive tackle, and their existing depth is sure to be tested early in the season when reserve Andre Neblett begins serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL policy on performance-enhancing substances.
Neblett, an undrafted free agent in 2010, is a fourth-year veteran who won't be eligible to join the active roster until Monday, Oct. 1.
He is permitted to participate in training camp and play in preseason games before the suspension goes into effect. He started four games last season but isn't guaranteed a roster spot in 2012.
Neblett revealed he took a supplement to help control his weight. He told the Charlotte Observer, "(It was) something I know I shouldn't have took and should have checked with my trainer. I'm costing a team that can potentially make it to the playoffs four games, and I can be a guy that can help."
--Defensive tackle Ron Edwards was held out of all OTA practices and minicamp, but it wasn't a result of the torn triceps that landed him on injured reserve in training camp last year. Instead, he was struggling with a hamstring problem, according to head coach Ron Rivera.
--The Panthers were one of the first teams to sign all their draft picks, meaning there are no pending contract issues between now and the start of training camp.
The Panthers don't even have many pending free agents to talk extension with, other than running back Jonathan Stewart.
--After making guard Travelle Wharton a salary-cap cut with a June 1 designation, the Panthers cleared some cap room recently. By splitting his cap hit they saved nearly $6 million off this year's cap, giving them more than $8 million worth of room.
--It seems like every time a veteran wide receiver was looking for work in recent years, the Panthers were floated as a possibility.
But while they might not have had a true complement to Steve Smith since Muhsin Muhammad retired, they've never shown as much interest as folks might think.
The latest example is former Steelers, Giants and Jets wideout Plaxico Burress, who stoked the flames himself. He went on a Charlotte radio station and said he'd love to play for the Panthers, partly because he has family in the area.
The only problem? The interest isn't mutual.
Panthers decision-makers have made clear they're not interested in adding him. They'd rather focus this year on the development of Brandon LaFell, who looked like a legitimate No. 2 last year, and gets the chance now that place-holder Legedu Naanee was allowed to walk.
But for some folks, that's not enough. In recent years, whether it was Randy Moss or T.J. Houshmandzadeh, the Panthers keep getting linked in the rumor mill, but nothing ever comes of it.
QUOTE TO NOTE
"How can you be on the football field and not be passionate? That's like going to the cafeteria and not eating. What are you going in there for? If you aren't pumped to show off in front of your peers and your coaches, I don't know what you came out here for." -- Panthers QB Cam Newton, talking to a group of high school players at a 7-on-7 tournament. That shows the kind of flair for leadership he impressed with last year.