Tuesday, February 22, 2011

2011 NFL Draft: Telling moves by Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos?

The two teams atop the 2011 NFL draft board made significant moves today that could impact the draft. The Carolina Panthers, who hold the first overall pick, placed the franchise tag on center Ryan Kalil. Meanwhile, the Denver Broncos signed cornerback Champ Bailey to a new four-year contract. Both decisions could change the teams' strategy on draft day.

For the Panthers, the decision to franchise tag Kalil means 24-year-old defensive end Charles Johnson, who had 11.5 sacks in 2010, will become a free agent. If Johnson leaves Carolina, the Panthers may look to draft a defensive end with the first pick. If that is the case, DE Da'Quan Bowers from Clemson would be the favorite to go first in the draft, replacing current favorite Auburn's DL Nick Fairley. There is an outside shot DE Robert Quinn from North Carolina could jump up draft board after the combine.

As for the Broncos, re-signing Bailey to a long-term deal likely takes CB Patrick Peterson of LSU out of the picture as a possible #2 pick. Also, with Fairley back in the picture, the Broncos may target him to shore up their interior defensive line.

Of course, complicating all of this is the expiring Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). The current CBA is set to expire after March 3, 2011 and until a new deal is reached, free agents will be forced to sit and wait for a new CBA.

The NFL draft is April 28-30, 2011.

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