The Panthers were hit hard by injuries at linebacker early in the season, and the defense never recovered from the losses of MLB Jon Beason and OLB Thomas Davis. Carolina turned to the hard-nosed Dan Connor to become its middle 'backer after Beason suffered a season-ending Achilles tear in Week One. Yet Connor, like the rest of his teammates on defense, has struggled to stuff the run, and he's been only a two-down player, coming off the field in the nickel package. Connor, who has a career-high 51 tackles, is in the final year of his rookie contract and will be looking for a chance to win a starting job and sign a long-term deal when he hits the open market. The Panthers made significant financial commitments to several players, including Beason, before the season and they might tighten their purse strings this offseason. Sources don't expect a major bidding war for Connor's services, though. His affordability could make him an attractive option for the Panthers and other potential suitors.
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