The fun of free agency is right around the corner. On the afternoon of March 9 at 4 p.m. ET, each NFL club will have made their decisions on which potential Free Agents they want to retain. There’s always the option of the franchise or transition tag to retain their right when it comes to buying some extra time to work out an extended contract. Then again, that is a move the Carolina Panthers tried last season with All-Pro cornerback Josh Norman. When it was all said and done, the results were simply disastrous.

So which player will Ron Rivera’s team look to bring back and which performers will hit free agency?

It’s certainly worth discussing. Over the course of two seasons, the Panthers went from a 15-1 Super Bowl participant to a 6-10 cellar dweller in the NFC South. Can they bounce back in a big way?

Bring him back

There's no way the Carolina Panthers have any notion of letting talented defensive tackle Kawann Short get away. The team had its issues on defense last season but that was primarily in the secondary. The 2013 second-round pick from Purdue has been a stout force up the middle, combining with Star Lotulelei inside. The Panthers have a few potential free agents on the defensive front, starting with 10-year veteran Charles Johnson. One player that is coming back for 2017 is pass-rushing defensive end Mario Addison.

The team recently signed him to a new three-year contract. A slapping of the franchise tag on Short would hardly be a big surprise.

Let him go

The Carolina Panthers finished five games behind the NFC champion Atlanta Falcons this past season. And Ron Rivera’s club will have a new defensive coordinator (Steve Wilks) now that Sean McDermott is the head coach of the Buffalo Bills.

But don’t expect a lot of system changes with the former assistant head coach/secondary calling the shots on this side of the ball. This is a team that will likely address its defensive backfield in free agency and the draft. And that could make affording a luxury such as reserve linebacker A.J. Klein, who will get his share of offers this offseason, extremely difficult.

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