3. Eli Apple, cornerback
One of the Panthers’ former defensive building blocks, James Bradberry, is a free agent this year. He has been a solid performer for this franchise, but seems likely to hit the open market and consider offers from other teams.
Losing Bradberry would open a major hole in the secondary. It would leave Donte Jackson as the only starting-caliber cornerback left on the roster. Carolina also faces the possibility of losing slot corner Ross Crockrell in free agency.
Eli Apple is a logical target thanks to his youth, upside and playing history. He enters the free agency market having rebuilt some of his value during his time with the New Orleans Saints.
Apple still suffered from some lapses and hasn’t lived up to his draft status. However, he comes with starting experience and has shown signs of turning the corner. Carolina could sign him to a reasonable contract and insert him opposite Donte Jackson.
It’s highly likely that Apple isn’t the only cornerback the Panthers add this offseason. They could even look to re-sign Crockwell. However, he would likely be the most expensive and come with the biggest upside. In the right system, Apple could finally develop into an above-average NFL cornerback.