Panthers first-year coach Ron Rivera and his staff have less than a week to finalize their roster.
Teams must be at 80 players Tuesday, before putting the final, 53-man roster in place Saturday.
Most of the starting spots are secure, but not all. The Panthers need help at defensive tackle and cornerback, and might add a receiver if one comes available at the right price.
Another benefit of having the NFL's worst record last season - the Panthers have priority on any waiver claims. So expect them to bring in a few new players. And if training camp is a guide, those players figure to have ties to Rivera or one of his coordinators.
The Panthers start the week with 87 players, although receiver David Gettis and offensive lineman Zack Williams have not yet been placed on injured reserve after ACL surgeries.
The following is the Observer's projected 53-man roster, which includes only current players. The numbers in parentheses are the projected numbers the team will keep at each position; players noted in bold are those projected to make the team.
QUARTERBACKS (will keep 3)
Locks : Cam Newton, Jimmy Clausen, Derek Anderson.
On the bubble : None.
Cut : Tony Pike.
Comment : Shortly after announcing Pike had undergone elbow surgery to repair nerve damage, Ron Rivera said he would be OK with three quarterbacks. In a perfect Panthers' world, Newton will start, Clausen will back him up and Anderson will be the emergency QB if the young guys get injured and/or overwhelmed.
RUNNING BACKS (5)
Locks: DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, Mike Goodson, Tyrell Sutton.
On the bubble: Tony Fiammetta, Richie Brockel.
Cut: Josh Vaughan, Rashawn Jackson.
Comment: This is the Panthers' deepest position on offense: bad news for Vaughan, who scored one of the team's 17 touchdowns in 2010. Fiammetta has been out three weeks since his concussion against the Giants. But he'll likely be the fullback ahead of Brockel as long as he's cleared this week.
WIDE RECEIVERS (5)
Locks: Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell, Armanti Edwards, Legedu Naanee, Kealoha Pilares.
On the bubble: David Clowney, Charly Martin, Wallace Wright.
Cut: Darvin Adams, Jamorris Warren.
Comment: The Panthers could keep six wideouts. But as much as Rob Chudzinski uses two tight end sets, they probably need only five. Wright had a solid training camp. But the Panthers aren't likely to release Pilares, a fifth-round draft pick, or Naanee, a big target who knows the offense from his time in San Diego.
TIGHT ENDS (3)
Locks: Greg Olsen, Jeremy Shockey, Ben Hartsock.
On the bubble: Gary Barnidge.
Cut: Greg Smith.
Comment: Barnidge was making a strong case to keep four tight ends before fracturing his ankle during a walkthrough two weeks ago. Having escaped Mike Martz's offense for a much more tight end-friendly scheme, Olsen seems destined for a big year. If Shockey stays healthy, he can still get open and be a threat in the passing game. Hartsock is the designated blocker.
OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)
Locks: T Jordan Gross, G Travelle Wharton, C Ryan Kalil, G Mackenzy Bernadeau, T Jeff Otah, T Garry Williams, T Lee Ziemba.
On the bubble: T Geoff Schwartz, G C.J. Davis, G/T Byron Bell.
Cut: G Duke Robinson, T Jacob Bender, G Bryant Browning, C Ryan Pugh, C John Gianninoto.
Comment: The Panthers have brought Otah and his swollen knee along slowly in the hopes he'll be ready for the regular season. Schwartz, who can play guard or tackle, could be headed for the IR with a hip injury that has not responded well to treatment. Ziemba, a seventh-round pick who protected Newton's blind side at Auburn, is in good shape to make the 53-man. Davis has impressed the new coaching staff. Bell, an undrafted free agent from New Mexico, could get the final spot if the Panthers don't bring in a veteran.
DEFENSIVE LINE (9)
Locks: DE Charles Johnson, DE Greg Hardy, DE Eric Norwood, DE Everette Brown, DT Sione Fua, DT Terrell McClain, DT Corvey Irvin.
On the bubble: DT Andre Neblett, DT Kentwan Balmer, DT Nick Hayden.
Cut: DE Thomas Keiser, DE Ugo Chinasa, DE Malcolm Tatum, DT DelJuan Robinson.
Comment: The Panthers will be all over the waiver wire or could try to work a trade to solidify the interior, where rookies McClain and Fua started last week against the Bengals. Balmer, on his third team in as many years, is probably not the long-term answer. The situation at end is better, assuming Hardy stays healthy and doesn't get overmatched in the run game.
Locks: James Anderson, Jon Beason, Thomas Davis, Dan Connor, Omar Gaither.
On the bubble: Jordan Senn, Thomas Williams, Lawrence Wilson.
Cut: Sean Ware, Jason Williams.
Comment: There is a good chance Beason won't be ready by Week 1 following surgery last week on his Achilles. But there is tremendous depth here, and the Panthers could try to shop a linebacker to fill a need at defensive tackle or cornerback.
Connor will start in the middle if Beason isn't ready, with Anderson and Davis flanking him. Teams don't like to cut their draft picks, but Wilson is buried on the depth chart and hasn't made much of an impact. Thomas Williams, a former Southern Cal linebacker, has looked good in limited action.
DEFENSIVE BACKS (9)
Locks: CB Chris Gamble, CB Captain Munnerlyn, S Sherrod Martin, S Charles Godfrey, S Jordan Pugh, S Sean Considine.
On the bubble: CB Brandon Hogan, CB R.J. Stanford, CB Robert McClain, CB Chevis Jackson
Cut: CB C.J. Wilson, CB Kendric Burney, S Michael Greco, S Kevin Payne.
Comment: The Panthers figure to add at least one cornerback, and maybe more, to their secondary as teams begin trimming rosters. Eagles cornerback Joselio Hanson, who played for Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott in Philly, could be a trade possibility.
Hogan, a candidate to start before he was slow to recover from ACL surgery in December, likely will begin the year on the physically unable to perform list.
Locks: K Olindo Mare, P Jason Baker.
On the bubble: LS J.J. Jansen, LS Chris Massey.
Cut: K Adi Kunalic.
Comment: The Panthers released John Kasay and signed Mare so they wouldn't have to keep two kickers. Mare has shown he can handle kickoff duties, knocking all four of his kicks out of or deep into the end zone last week at Cincinnati. Massey, a nine-year veteran released by St. Louis last week, could edge Jansen out as long snapper.
DT Ron Edwards, CB Cletis Gordon.
(WR David Gettis and OL Zack Williams have season-ending injuries, but have not yet been placed on IR.)