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Panthers go bargain bin shopping

Through nearly three weeks of free agency, the Carolina Panthers have barely made a peep.

But there are whispers they could still make a few moves, and there are some spots where good help is still available.

The Panthers said they weren't going to be big players in the unrestricted market, and they have used the uncapped year to dump contracts and aging players to give opportunities to younger players.

But there's room for them to swoop in late and make some smart buys. The laws of economics have worked in their favor in the past, and they could again in the next month, when veteran players will get antsy hoping to have a spot to land before the draft.

One league personnel director said this week there were still a number of potential starters at defensive end and cornerback, and to a lesser degree wide receiver, available.

Despite re-signing Tyler Brayton last week, the Panthers still seem to be in the market for additional help, based on conversations around the league. And defensive end might be the one spot in particular where the supply works in the Panthers' favor.

Chicago's Adewale Ogunleye is looking for work after being displaced by Julius Peppers. At 32, he still had 6.5 for the Bears last year. New England's Derrick Burgess or St. Louis' Leonard Little could provide the Panthers with quality depth, if not they're not the kind of every down presence they once were.

If they were after more of a Brayton-style end, to play the run or rush from inside, they could go for players such as Vonnie Holliday or Marques Douglas, veterans who would lend some credence to a still-young room. Also available are former Indianapolis utility man Raheem Brock (who can play inside as well), New Orleans' Charles Grant (who like Little has already stated a desire to play here), and former Saints and Eagles pass-rusher Darren Howard.

While options remain at defensive end, there's not much help left at defensive tackle.

Only four unrestricted free agents tackles are unsigned, all of them older than 30 -- including 36-year-old Hollis Thomas, Jeff Zgonina (39), Bryan Robinson (35) and Kendrick Clancy (31).

Also on the street are four veterans who were released this offseason, including Damione Lewis (32), Grady Jackson (37), Cornelius Griffin (33) and Rob Meier (32).

Other spots of need for the Panthers coincide with what's available.

While the name players at receiver might be gone, a receiver such as Buffalo's Josh Reed (given his link with new Panthers receivers coach Tyke Tolbert) could provide insurance if the Dwayne Jarrett experiment fails.

At cornerback, the Panthers aren't sure yet how much need they have.

Richard Marshall's a restricted free agent, and has stayed away from offseason conditioning while there's uncertainty about his future. If he found an offer the Panthers weren't willing to match -- which would net them a second-round pick -- there are several players who'd fit their Tampa-2 based system, which isn't as dependent on elite cover players.

Tennessee's Nick Harper (formerly of the Colts) is familiar with the style, and players such as the Jets' Lito Sheppard, Tampa Bay's Torrie Cox, Detroit's Philip Buchanon or Baltimore's Frank Walker could be had more cheaply now that the market's nearly three weeks old.

The Panther like waiting for bargains and filling in blanks, and that's what this class of free agents seem best suited for.

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