I know the more interesting story is the QB battle between Matt Moore, Jimmy Clausen, and Tony Pike, but that will not decide the Panthers fate this year. Ron Meeks has a very tough decision to make now at linebacker with the loss of Thomas Davis for a second straight year to a knee injury.
In Meeks' system the Will linebacker is the one that makes the majority of plays. That was Thomas Davis' position. Top Will backers make big plays and big money, think of Derrick Brooks with the Buccaneers and Lance Briggs with the Bears. The Will Backer is very tough to block if the gaps are occupied correctly, and it is almost impossible to block if you have a great 3 technique defensive tackle in front of him like Brooks and Briggs had with Warren Sapp and Tommie Harris (before he hurt his knee).
Should Meeks replace Thomas Davis with Pro Bowl Middle LBer Jon Beason? Physically Beason has the speed to play the Will backer, but that would leave Dan Conner in the middle running the defense. Jamaar Williams, who came over from the Bears in the Chris Harris trade, could play Will LBer and leave Beason in the middle.
If you move Beason, that would mean all three linebackers would either be new, or playing new positions. James Anderson will probably be replacing Na'il Diggs at Strong Linebacker. Making that transition even tougher is the fact that Julius Peppers, Ma'ake Kemoeatu, and Damione Lewis will no longer be starting on the defensive line. That is a lot of experience that will be missed on this defense. The Panthers front seven will look like a Home Makeover project, nobody will recognize it when it is finished. My guess is that Beason will stay in the middle just to give this defense, that finished the year pretty well, a little continuity.
John Fox is in the last year of his contract, but he has made a lot of moves that are in the best interest of this franchise, by going younger. The problem is, by the time these moves start to pay off, somebody else could be the head coach.
Did I mention that I think Jimmy Clausen is the the QB out of this draft class that I think is the most ready to play in the NFL? Another day, another story.