Carolina Panthers

Beason anticipating leading Panthers' D

CHARLOTTE -- Not only does Carolina Panthers linebacker Jon Beason look forward to hearing voices in his head, he's wishing he heard them a year ago.

The precocious middle linebacker -- thrust into the starting lineup in the responsibility spot earlier than anyone planned last year --said he was very much in favor of the just-passed resolution allowing a radio receiver in a defensive player's helmet to protect the signal-calling process.

There's been no official announcement that he's going to be the one hearing defensive coordinator Mike Trgovac, but since he calls the signals, it's a safe assumption he'll get the first one. Teams are allowed two, although only one can be on the field at a time. Another safe bet would be that safety Chris Harris would likely have a backup helmet with the receiver at the ready if anything happened to Beason, since it's needed on a player who's sure to be on the field for every snap in every defensive package.

"Who knows who the lucky guy might be?" Beason laughed, knowing full well it's coming his way. "It's good that that one passed, because as we found out last year, you don't know who might be watching."

The measure had been discussed in recent years, but gained momentum with New England's "Spygate" controversy.

Having signals spoken to him will be a relief for Beason, who was thrown into the deep end of the pool his rookie year when Dan Morgan was injured in Week 3.

That meant he got the wristband full of defensive codes, and he had to decipher the hand signals coming from Trgovac on the sideline, refer to his notes and communicate the calls to his teammates, all while the play clock was running and he was learning his own responsibilities.

On a basic play, he had to make at least three calls, setting the defensive front, the coverage and any checks that might need to be made at the line of scrimmage. It was a lot to do in a little time for a rookie, and he said several teams (notably Seattle) went hurry-up or shifted alignments at the line to try to confuse him.

"Being a rookie, and trying to get a defense full of vets and All-Pros lined up, it was pretty stressful, because it was all on you," Beason admitted. "That's why (the radio) is going to help, because it's going to make the whole thing a lot faster, a lot smoother. There's so many words, so many signals coming at you so fast, it's hard sometimes.

"It's going to help me a lot. Coach Trgovac is going to make it smooth. He's calm under pressure, so having him in my ear is going to be good."

• REMEMBER THE WORD: One of the first things general manager Marty Hurney mentioned upon trading defensive tackle Kris Jenkins was the "flexibility" the two extra draft picks gave him. And while they can't trade the two supplemental seventh-rounders they gained last week, it puts them in a better position to make moves on draft day.

They have a total of 10 picks after last week's allocation, one in each round, with two thirds and three sevenths.

The Panthers have never been bashful about swinging deals during the draft, making eight trades involving picks since 2002. Now that they have 10, don't be surprised if they move around. They have three needs that rise above all others, all of which need addressing in the first three rounds -- a starting offensive tackle, some pass-rush help and another running back.

They could use one of their two third-rounders to move up five or six spots in the first round if they think that's what it will take to land a tackle such as Ryan Clady or Chris Williams, or defensive end Derrick Harvey. One of those should be there at 13 (their slot in the first) if they want to sit still, while the running back depth in this draft lends itself to a later pick such as a Matt Forte or a Kevin Smith.

They could also trade back, gamble on a later first-round tackle such as Gosder Cherilus or Sam Baker and use the extra picks to address the void of young defensive tackles.

As it stands, they have the 13th, 43rd, 67th, 74th, 109th, 141st, 181st, 221st, 241st and 250th picks.

They probably want to do something, if only because the last time they had 10 picks, their disastrous draft of 2005 unfolded. From that bounty of options, only linebacker Thomas Davis remains a full-time starter. That draft was highlighted (lowlighted?) by stinkers such as second-rounder Eric Shelton and third-rounder Atiyyah Ellison, neither of whom took a meaningful snap.

• STUCK ON 80: Since proposals to expand offseason rosters didn't pass at the owners' meetings last week, the Panthers have 17 spots to fill before training camp. They have 62 players signed, plus restricted free agent linebacker Adam Seward, who's awaiting word on a possible offer sheet from New England.

They'll be able to keep a few more in minicamp and June's coaching sessions (since draft picks don't count against the limit until they sign contracts), but they have to be at 80 by the time they get to Spartanburg for training camp.

As a result of the squeeze, don't expect many picks to sign before the end of the June workouts, because they'll want to keep as many players as possible under their watchful eye as long as possible.

• EXTRA POINTS: While they still have some holes to fill, the Panthers have largely gone into the bunker to prepare for the draft. Any free agency moves they make won't be major, if they're made at all, before they see what they come away with at the end of the month.

They only have a few more workouts to attend (Pitt tackle Jeff Otah finally takes the stage Wednesday), meaning the next three weeks will be filled with day-long meetings to set the draft board and fine-tune the information they've gathered. ... Quarterback David Carr will make a quick return to Bank of America Stadium, as he'll show up with the New York Giants for the preseason opener. The exact date hasn't been set, but the game will be between Aug. 7-11. They'll follow with a trip to Philadelphia (Aug. 14, televised by FOX), then host Washington (between Aug. 21-25) and finish with a trip to Pittsburgh (either Aug. 28 or 29). ... The contracts signed by offensive linemen Toniu Fonoti and Milford Brown were cheap one-year deals, falling into line with the make-good deals signed by most of their pickups this offseason.

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