Let me start off by saying I hope you received everything you wished for this Christmas and spent precious, quality time with your family.
Now, let me follow up by saying if you’re a Panthers fan, I know you didn’t get everything you asked for. But as we prepare to welcome in the new year, perhaps Santa will make an offseason trip back to Charlotte to grant a few of these:
1. An indoor practice facility
Last week’s weather-induced practice inside the Charlotte Convention Center was likely the final straw for a team that lacks the same facilities as some high schools (in Texas). Owner David Tepper predicted some sort of indoor facility by the end of next summer. Expect him to follow through.
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2. A full recovery for Cam Newton
QB1 has neither confirmed nor denied his need for surgery on his already-surgically-repaired shoulder, but his health should be high on every Panthers fan’s wish list. The team more or less goes how he goes: When he’s good, the Panthers will be, as well.
3. An edge rusher
The Panthers rank 25th in pass rushing in the NFL. Luckily, with Carolina sprinting toward a spot in the top 10 of the 2019 NFL draft, this wish should be fulfilled come April. Josh Allen (Kentucky), Brian Burns (Florida State) or Clelin Ferrell (Clemson) — oh my!
4. A clean bill of health for Greg Olsen’s foot
Four weeks ago, a teary-eyed Olsen told reporters his latest season-ending foot injury was inevitable given the frailty of his surgically repaired foot. Now sporting a soft cast and a sense of optimism, the veteran tight end is set for another offseason of rehab as he attempts to return for the 2019 season. The Panthers could use vintage Olsen and his leadership.
5. A new contract for safety Eric Reid
Coach Ron Rivera wants him back. He wants to be back. Now the ball’s in general manager Marty Hurney’s court to get a deal done. Center Ryan Kalil called Reid one of the best teammates he’s played with in Carolina and he’s young enough to be a mainstay in the secondary for years. Signing Reid at age 27 would be like pressing fast-forward on a high-round draft pick — without the guess work.
6. A comfortable offseason for Christian McCaffrey
No other running back in the NFL was on the field this season as often as McCaffrey, who Sunday spent his first offensive snaps on the sideline since Week 9. In 2019, he’ll be a threat to become the third player in NFL history with 1,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards in a season if his workload continues, so fans should hope he gets plenty of rest until then.
7. A return to the playoffs
The Panthers haven’t missed consecutive postseasons since 2012, which is also the last time they posted consecutive losing seasons. With the core of their offensive talent returning in 2019, and a possibly-revamped defense, Panthers fans should hope they return to the playoffs.
8. A redzone receiver
D.J. Moore, Curtis Samuel and Jarius Wright are great for moving the chains between the 20s, but the Panthers’ offense could use a physical receiver who presents a big target for Newton in the redzone — also known as the role Devin Funchess is meant to play within the offense. With Funchess likely commanding No. 1-receiver money (key word: commanding), Carolina could look to the draft to fill this need.