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Summer is about to kick into high gear.

Work, however, remains to be completed in the Carolina Panthers’ offseason program. The Panthers have had nearly full attendance at voluntary organized team activities (OTAs), and are scheduled to continue to practice this week and next, ending with a three-day mandatory minicamp (June 15-17).

After the first three weeks of June, the team and players will break for the summer, reconvening at Wofford College at the end of July for training camp.

“I just like the fact that there’s guys that want to work,” coach Matt Rhule said. “Whether they’re at home working or they’re here voluntarily working with us … This is a job that’s also your craft. You have to hone your craft by doing it over and over and over again.”

While there are plenty of players who will get their fair share of the spotlight for the development of their “craft” leading up to the season, the Panthers have multiple players who could make a big impact this season but receive less attention in general. Their potential success could leave former draft picks, like TE Ian Thomas and LT Greg Little, closer and closer to the roster bubble and all of them need to have productive offseasons. Here are a few players we’re keeping an eye on:

DT DaQuan Jones

Jones was one of the Panthers’ more notable free agent signings. The team had a major need at defensive tackle to go alongside Derrick Brown — entering his second season — after moving on from veterans Kawann Short and Zach Kerr.

Jones, 29, is 6-foot-4, 320 pounds and was initially drafted by the Tennessee Titans in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL draft out of Penn State. He had spent his entire career with the Titans, including the past six years as a starter. A reliable player throughout his career, Jones is coming off a career-high 49 tackles and six quarterback hits last season.

Overall, the depth at defensive tackle remains limited. His success will be important for the line.

OL Trent Scott

We’ve written plenty about Scott and the competition for the left tackle position. He remains someone of whom the coaching staff speaks fondly, and has the chance to make a big impact on the offensive line, especially with a lack of clear starters at multiple positions.

He also helped link the Panthers and his former college teammate at Grambling, guard David Moore, putting in a good word on both sides.

S Sam Franklin

Franklin started four games last year at strong safety, backing up Juston Burris, after being signed as an undrafted free agent out of Temple, and was solid in his rookie season. He had 23 tackles, one pass defensed and one sack.

Rhule shared last week that hybrid defender Jeremy Chinn is more likely to continue to move around, to both safety and linebacker primarily, and not stick to one spot in 2021, however, some of his role will depend on how other players develop.

“It really kind of depends on how everyone else comes along, right? Like how does Sam Franklin, how do those guys develop,” Rhule said when asked where Chinn could play. “If you feel like they’re starting safeties, then we can use Chinn in a more hybrid role.

“If we feel like, you know what, he’s just that good at safety, we’ll keep him there. I would anticipate us doing what we did last year, moving him around. I think, to me, when you have a chess piece like that, you’ve got to utilize his versatility.”

In order for this defense to take the next step with the current players on the roster, younger defenders, like Franklin, have to continue to get better to compete for starting roles. Chinn is taking more reps at safety right now as he continues to recover from a minor cleanup on his knee, but the safety position will be one to watch all offseason.

TE Dan Arnold

Alright, so maybe Arnold isn’t the most under-the-radar player, but in a way he is, relative to what the Panthers may need from him.

The tight end room lacks depth and a sure starter with Ian Thomas yet to clearly step into the starting role as he enters the final year of his rookie deal. Rookie Tommy Tremble and former Seahawk Stephen Sullivan will be especially intriguing to watch, as well.

As Arnold’s agent, Erik Burkhardt, mentioned in a clip posted by the Panthers of the contract negotiations as part of the “Panthers Confidential” series, Arnold’s four touchdowns with the Arizona Cardinals last year tied the most by any Panther in 2020 (DJ Moore).

The team needs a tight end to step up as a receiver. It remains to be seen if Arnold, who was signed to a two-year, $6 million deal, can be that guy.

News and notes

With the calendar officially turning to June, players that were designated as post-June 1 releases will officially be reflected in team’s salary caps this week. For the Panthers, that means as of June 2, the team will no longer have to carry Tre Boston’s full cap number. The team made him a post-June 1 release, which allows Carolina to spread out his dead cap hit over the next two years as opposed to a more immediate impact.

Boston, 28, has remained a free agent since being released by the team after the start of the new league year in March. He had two years remaining on a three-year, $18 million deal and will count for $2.6 million in dead cap each of the next two years, per OvertheCap. The team saved $3.5 million this season and around $5 million next season with Boston’s release.

Originally selected in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL draft out of North Carolina, Boston was with the team from 2014-16 and then returned in 2019-20. The team has still not agreed to terms with the players selected on the first two days of the draft, including first-round pick Jaycee Horn. The over $17 million in soon-to-be available cap space will partly go towards doing so.

The preseason schedule for the Panthers has been finalized. Teams will only play three preseason games with a 17th regular-season game being introduced this year. Carolina will play one road preseason game and two home preseason games and has one more road regular season game than home, along with the rest of the NFC. The scheduling will switch conferences each year.

Carolina Panthers 2021 preseason schedule

Sunday, Aug. 15 — 1:00 p.m. @ Indianapolis Colts

Saturday, Aug. 21 — 7:00 p.m. vs. Baltimore Ravens

Friday, Aug. 27 — 7:30 p.m. vs. Pittsburgh Steelers