Oct 7, 2021; Seattle, Washington, USA; Seattle Seahawks defensive end Carlos Dunlap (8) waits during a timeout against the Los Angeles Rams during the first quarter at Lumen Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Free agent DE Carlos Dunlap visiting Panthers

Free agent defensive end Carlos Dunlap visited the Carolina Panthers on Monday, ESPN reported.

The two-time Pro Bowl selection is a South Carolina native and could help the Panthers replace pass rusher Haason Reddick, now with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Dunlap, 33, posted 8.5 sacks, 14 quarterback hits and 35 tackles in 17 games (two starts) last season with Seattle.

He has 96 sacks to go along with 21 forced fumbles and 255 QB hits in 180 games (123 starts) with the Cincinnati Bengals (2010-20) and Seahawks (2020-21).

His sack total ranks eighth among active NFL players entering the 2022 season. Dunlap had a career-high 13.5 sacks and made the first of back-to-back Pro Bowls in 2015.

–Field Level Media

Sep 12, 2021; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Carolina Panthers wide receiver Robby Anderson (11) celebrates his touchdown reception from quarterback Sam Darnold (not pictured) against the New York Jets during the second quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Panthers WR Robby Anderson ‘thinking’ about retiring

Carolina Panthers wide receiver Robby Anderson tweeted Saturday that he is pondering retirement.

“Ain’t gone lie Thinking bout Retiring…” he wrote on Twitter before later deleting the post.

Anderson, 29, caught 53 passes for 519 yards and five touchdowns in 17 games (16 starts) last season.

His numbers dropped off significantly after setting career highs in catches (95) and yards (1,096) in his first campaign with Carolina in 2020.

Anderson has 355 receptions for 4,674 yards and 28 scores in 95 games (79 starts) with the New York Jets (2016-19) and Panthers.

He signed a two-year, $29.5 million extension with Carolina last August.

–Field Level Media

Dec 19, 2021; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Carolina Panthers outside linebacker Shaq Thompson (7) gestures to the crowd prior to the game against the Buffalo Bills at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Panthers restructure LB Shaq Thompson’s contract

The Carolina Panthers restructured linebacker Shaq Thompson’s contract Monday to create a reported $5 million in salary cap space.

Carolina is now about $29 million under the cap, according to Over the Cap.

Thompson was due to count $18.1 million against the cap before the adjustment.

The 27-year-old registered 104 tackles, two sacks and two interceptions in 14 games (13 starts) last season.

He has 574 tackles, 11.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and three picks in 100 games (89 starts) since the Panthers made him a first-round draft pick (25th overall) in 2015.

–Field Level Media

Dec 19, 2021; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Carolina Panthers fans hold a sign for Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule (not pictured) against the Buffalo Bills during the second half at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Panthers not planning to fire Matt Rhule as coach

The Carolina Panthers plan to keep head coach Matt Rhule for the 2022 season, ESPN reported Saturday.

Sources also told the network that Rhule will begin searching for a new offensive coordinator next week.

Rhule, 46, is 10-22 in two seasons at the helm heading into Sunday’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Carolina (5-11) started 3-0 this season but takes a six-game losing streak into the finale at Tampa Bay (12-4).

Rhule fired offensive coordinator and play-caller Joe Brady on Dec. 5. Senior offensive assistant Jeff Nixon took over his duties.

Rhule signed a seven-year, $62 million contract in January 2020.

–Field Level Media

Jan 2, 2022; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) jogs off of the field after the game against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Buccaneers focused on securing NFC’s No. 2 seed vs. Panthers

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers could use a drama-free conclusion to the regular season.

They’ll attempt to achieve that when the Carolina Panthers visit for Sunday’s game at Tampa, Fla.

The Buccaneers (12-4) have more to accomplish before heading into the playoffs.

“You play to win. You play to get that second seed, that’s huge,” Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians said. “We’re not resting anybody. We’re playing to win.”

Tampa Bay could be the NFC’s second, third or fourth seed depending on the final-week outcomes. The Buccaneers must defeat Carolina in order to have a chance for the No. 2 seed behind Green Bay.

The Buccaneers are 6-1 at home for the second-best home mark in the NFL, so securing as many chances as possible to play at Raymond James Stadium in January could be critical.

Last week’s antics involving receiver Antonio Brown are bound to be the topic following the team until another game is played.

The Panthers (5-11), losers of six consecutive games, have been eliminated from playoff contention.

Two weeks ago, the Buccaneers clinched the NFC South divisional title when they defeated the Panthers 32-6 in Charlotte, N.C.

“Those players are getting paid, so they’re going to bring it,” Buccaneers safety Antoine Winfield Jr. said. “This is going to be a big game for them. It’s also a big game for us. Whatever we did last week or the week before, it doesn’t matter.”

While the Buccaneers are looking to add to their recent history, the Panthers are trying to avoid a negative distinction.

Carolina is one loss away from finishing with the worst record in NFL history for a team that started 3-0. The 2001 Chargers and 2012 Cardinals went from 3-0 to 5-11. The Panthers would be 5-12 if they lose the finale.

Either way, Carolina is guaranteed a last-place division spot for the second time in three years. The Panthers, who have had four straight losing seasons, finished with five wins in each of the past two seasons.

“This team is going to fight for each other,” Panthers safety Jeremy Chinn said. “We’re never going to let each other down.”

Coach Matt Rhule of the Panthers is trying to cast a positive light on some aspects of the season. He said he appreciates the effort displayed by players.

“You get to this point of the season, and you have a team that plays that hard, that means you have a good locker room,” Rhule said. “You have good guys. We have really good guys.”

The Panthers are dealing with some players still on the COVID protocol list, although there are indications that center Sam Tecklenburg and defensive lineman Darryl Johnson could be back on the field.

The offensive line has been in shambles. Darnold was sacked seven times last week by the New Orleans Saints.

In four of the most recent string of defeats, the Panthers have failed to score more than 14 points. At least there has been a bit of intrigue involving the quarterback position.

Sam Darnold returned from injury and became the starter again in last week’s loss at New Orleans. Carolina had gone 0-5 in games started by Cam Newton, who now could be in his final game of his second go-around with the Panthers.

“We’re focused on winning this ballgame,” Darnold said, deflecting projections about the future.

Rhule said he expects Newton could be used in special situations, including in the red zone, for the Tampa Bay game.

–Field Level Media

Oct 4, 2020; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Carolina Panthers Mascot Sir Purr alone in the stands due to Covid 19 precautions during the second half of a game between the Carolina Panthers and the Arizona Cardinals at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Panthers send everyone home after positive COVID-19 tests

The Carolina Panthers sent players home Monday after what coach Matt Rhule called a “somewhat significant” number of positive COVID-19 tests.

The Panthers are scheduled to return to the team facility on Wednesday to resume preparing for their Week 17 game at New Orleans.

The Panthers (5-10) lost their fifth straight game on Sunday, falling 32-6 to the visiting Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Carolina began the day Monday with seven active players and one practice squad player on the reserve/COVID-19 list: Matt Barkley, Dennis Daley, Pat Elflein, Sam Franklin Jr., Azur Kamara, Rashaan Melvin, Brandon Zylstra and Austin Larkin (practice squad).

–Field Level Media

Bucs, Panthers looking to jump start sluggish offenses

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have plenty to figure out for their next game, including how to break through on the scoreboard.

Their opponent is in worse shape.

Tampa Bay visits the Carolina Panthers for Sunday afternoon’s game in Charlotte, N.C. The teams will meet twice over the final three weeks of the regular season.

The Buccaneers (10-4) are leading the NFC South, so they’re in good position in that regard and can clinch the divisional crown by winning in Charlotte. Their three remaining games also include a matchup with the lowly New York Jets.

The Panthers (5-9) have a four-game losing streak and all sorts of questions on the offensive side.

While Carolina can’t seem to find good rhythm with quarterback Cam Newton, the Buccaneers will be sticking with Tom Brady.

Tampa Bay had a four-game winning streak snapped with last weekend’s 9-0 loss to New Orleans.

There’s lots for the Buccaneers to sort out, particularly with losing receiver Chris Godwin for the rest of the season because of a torn knee ligament. Godwin is third in the NFL in receptions this year and fifth in receiving yards.

With receiver Mike Evans and running back Leonard Fournette nursing hamstring injuries, it’s bound to complicate Tampa Bay’s game plan. That could mean a larger role for running back Ronald Jones.

“I’ve got all the confidence in the world (in Jones),” Tampa Bay coach Bruce Arians said. “He ran great, caught the ball good (in the last game) and I think going forward it’s his job now.”

Still, the Buccaneers signed former All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell this week.

Arians said Evans could be back in action soon.

The Buccaneers have receiver Antonio Brown back following a three-game suspension related to falsifying a COVID vaccine status. The number of snaps he can handle against the Panthers could be a bit tricky.

“We’ll wait and see,” Arians said. “Hopefully, we can get 30, 35 plays out of him.”

In five games since rejoining the Panthers, Newton has thrown for four touchdowns and tossed four interceptions.

There just hasn’t been consistency or game-turning positive plays.

“I think it really just comes down to our ability to throw the ball and create some explosive plays,” Panthers coach Matt Rhule said.

With quarterback Sam Darnold available after time out with a shoulder injury, the Panthers should have more options. Practices leading to the weekend could determine how Carolina approaches the game, although Newton will be the starter and Darnold is expected to play at some point.

“It is a good opportunity to shake some of the rust off and see where he’s at,” Rhule said of Darnold.

Meanwhile, Panthers receiver DJ Moore’s status might not be determined until Sunday because of a hamstring injury.

Even coming off a blanking, the Buccaneers have a good foundation. Brady has an NFL-leading 4,348 passing yards and 36 touchdown passes this season. Yet he had gone 255 consecutive starts without a shutout loss.

The problems run so deep for the Panthers that they’ll turn to Lirim Hajrullahu, who has appeared in one previous NFL regular-season game, as the kicker. He was signed off Washington’s practice squad.

Zane Gonzalez had been the Carolina kicker, but a pregame quadriceps injury in Buffalo left the Panthers without a kicker for the game, so they passed up opportunities to attempt field goals and chose two-point conversion plays following their two touchdowns.

Panthers second-year safety Jeremy Chinn needs two tackles to reach 100 for the second season in a row.

Tampa Bay defeated the Panthers twice last season. That’s worth noting for another reason this week as well.

Last year, the Buccaneers followed a 38-3 loss to New Orleans by thumping the Panthers 46-23, so a quick turnaround on offense is possible.

–Field Level Media

Nov 21, 2021; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Carolina Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold (14) before the game at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Panthers won’t name starter, Sam Darnold likely to practice

After four consecutive defeats, the Carolina Panthers have not committed to a quarterback this week and could welcome back Sam Darnold into the fray.

Darnold has been out since a Week 9 shoulder injury, with the Panthers going 1-4 in his absence. Cam Newton was signed by the Panthers on Nov. 12 and has started each of the last four games, but has been ineffective in the passing game.

The Panthers are just 5-9 and guaranteed to finish with a fourth consecutive losing season.

With Darnold set to see a doctor Monday and possibly get clearance to return to the field, head coach Matt Rhule declined to say Monday who his quarterback will be for Sunday’s home game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

“If Sam is healthy, we will practice him and see kind of where he’s at,” Rhule told reporters Monday. “I think it’s a good opportunity to shake some of the rust off him and see where he’s at in the process. I can’t speculate who will be the full-time guy until we have some more information.”

Newton has not thrown for 190 yards in any of the four games he has started. He played his first nine seasons with the team, guiding them to the Super Bowl in 2015, after he was the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2011.

Newton, 32, has been effective running the ball, with a rushing touchdown in each of the last four games, to go along with 71 rushing yards against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. But he has also fumbled four times in the past two weeks, losing one, and has thrown four interceptions in the last three games.

Darnold, 24, helped the Panthers to a 3-0 start, but that was followed by a four-game losing streak. He threw for 1,986 yards in nine games, with seven TDs, but also threw 11 interceptions.

Until Darnold gets clearance, the Panthers will have to look for improvement from Newton.

“We’ll continue to coach Cam, and continue to build off the good things he’s doing,” Rhule said.

–Field Level Media