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Free-Agent Setup: Carolina Panthers ponder cost of Star Lotulelei

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The Sports Xchange
Carolina Panthers defensive lineman Star Lotulelei (98) zeros in on a fumble by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brian Hoyer in the first quarter on September 10, 2017 at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California. File photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI
Carolina Panthers defensive lineman Star Lotulelei (98) zeros in on a fumble by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brian Hoyer in the first quarter on September 10, 2017 at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California. File photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI | License Photo

There are a few intriguing unrestricted free agents, all with different factors involving their futures with the Carolina Panthers.

There is no reason to believe the Panthers will apply the franchise tag. They might consider defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, but the defensive line is an area of strength with depth available behind him.

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Guard Andrew Norwell might not be of high enough profile for the franchise tag, though he's steady and last season's glitches along the front are reason for at least moderate concern. It figures the Panthers will be serious about retaining him.

Then there's kicker Graham Gano, who had a career-best season after re-winning the job in training camp. It would be a stretch for the Panthers to tag Gano, though they probably don't want to take a step back if they don't keep him because he became so reliable. And still to be determined is the status of defensive end Julius Peppers and if he wants another season or opts for retirement.

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Unit-by-unit depth chart as of Super Bowl LII. Injured players listed as starters if that was their status when injured.

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*Asterisk indicates player ended 2017 season on injured reserve.

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QUARTERBACKS (B): Starter - Cam Newton. Backups - Derek Anderson (UFA), Garrett Gilbert.

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RUNNING BACKS (B): Starters - Jonathan Stewart, Christian McCaffrey. Backups - Fozzy Whittaker, Cameron Artis-Payne, Alex Armah.

TIGHT ENDS (C-plus): Starter - Greg Olsen. Backups - Ed Dickson (UFA), *Chris Manhertz, *Scott Simonson.

WIDE RECEIVERS (C-minus): Starters - Devin Funchess, Russell Shepard. Backups - Brenton Bersin (UFA), *Damiere Byrd, Kaelin Clay (UFA), Mose Frazier, *Curtis Samuel, *Fred Ross, *Charles Johnson (UFA).

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (C): Starters - LT Matt Kalil, LG Andrew Norwell (UFA), C Ryan Kalil, RG Trai Turner, RT Daryl Williams. Backups - LT Amini Silatolu (UFA), LG/C Greg Van Roten, C Tyler Larsen, RT Taylor Moton, T *Dan France, T *John Theus, G *David Yankey, T Blaine Clausell.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (A): Starters - DLE Julius Peppers (UFA), DLT Star Lotulelei (UFA), DRT Kawann Short, DRE Mario Addison. Backups - DLE Charles Johnson, DLE Bryan Cox Jr., DT Kyle Love, DT Vernon Butler, DRE Wes Horton, DE *Daeshon Hall, DT *Drew Iddings, DE Zach Moore.

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LINEBACKERS (B-plus): Starters - WLB Thomas Davis, MLB Luke Kuechly, SLB Shaq Thompson. Backups - MLB David Mayo, LB Spencer Paysinger, LB Andrew Gachkar (UFA), LB Ben Jacobs, LB *Jared Norris.

DEFENSIVE BACKS (C): Starters - LCB James Bradberry, RCB Daryl Worley, SS Mike Adams, FS Kurt Coleman. Backups - LCB Captain Munnerlyn, LCB LaDarius Gunter, RCB Kevon Seymour, S Colin Jones, S Jairus Byrd (UFA), S *Demetrious Cox, CB *Corn Elder, CB *Teddy Williams (UFA), CB *Cole Luke.

SPECIAL TEAMS (A-minus): K Graham Gano (UFA), P Michael Palardy, KOR Fozzy Whittaker, KOR *Damiere Byrd, PR Kaelin Clay, PR Christian McCaffrey, LS J.J. Jansen.

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