Carolina Panthers Free Agency Recap

The Carolina Panthers ownership, management, and coaching staff have been quite busy in the last week and a half. The Panthers have released, signed and re-signed a wide range of talent in the free agency period. Here’s a look at the changes that have taken place in the offseason that followed a mediocre, at best, 2019 season.

Coaching Staff:

  • Matt Rhule

The Panthers began their rebuild by hiring head coach, Matt Rhule, after firing former head coach, Ron Rivera, mid-season. Before accepting the job with the Panthers, Rhule was the head coach of the Baylor University football program, and he was also the head coach at Temple University before Baylor. Rhule is known to build struggling teams into winning teams, and it appears Panthers’ owner David Tepper is looking for Rhule to do the same thing for his struggling program.

  • Joe Brady

One week after hiring Rhule, the Panthers hired Joe Brady to take over as the teams’ new offensive coordinator. This move came the day after the LSU Tigers won the NCAA National Championship, and came as a surprise to many LSU faithful as Brady had stated in the days prior he wouldn’t be leaving any time soon. With this move Brady, 30, became the youngest coordinator in the league.

Who left the team?

  • Luke Kuechly

On Jan. 14 linebacker Luke Kuechly announced his retirement from the NFL.  Kuechly cited his health and well-being in deciding to leave professional football after eight seasons with the Panthers.

Kuechly finished his career with 1,092 tackles, 18 interceptions, and 75 tackles for loss in his time with the Panthers. Kuechly was part of the three Carolina teams that won the NFC South in 2013, 2014, and 2015, and he was also part of the Carolina team that faced the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50.

  • Greg Olsen

On Jan. 30, Panthers veteran tight end Greg Olsen and the franchise announced they had mutually parted ways.  In part, Olsen said, “The team and I are both on the same page that it is best we go in different directions for now.”

Olsen spent nine seasons with the Panthers and ranks fifth all-time among NFL tight ends in both catches and yards, with 718 and 8,444 respectively. Olsen became the first tight end in NFL history to record three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons.

Olsen has since signed with the Seattle Seahawks.

  • Colin Jones

The Panthers released the veteran safety, Colin Jones on March 16, after his eighth season with Carolina. In the 2019 season, Jones led the team in special team tackles and tied for second place in franchise history with 61 career special teams tackles.

  • Gerald McCoy

Gerald McCoy is leaving Charlotte and headed to Dallas. McCoy signed to a three-year deal with the Cowboys after spending one year with the Panthers. Before playing in Carolina, McCoy spent nine years with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. McCoy was a strong link in the defensive line in Carolina, and McCoy could be the missing link in the Dallas defense.

  • Trai Turner

On March 18, the Panthers made a trade with the Los Angeles Chargers that sent Turner to the Chargers in exchange for Russell Okung.

Trai Turner was drafted by the Carolina Panthers in the 2014 NFL Draft and spent six seasons with Carolina. Turner recorded 5326 offensive snaps in his time with the Panthers and was named to five consecutive Pro Bowls, 2015-2019.

  • Eric Reid

In a surprising move, the Panthers released Eric Reid.  Reid started his professional football career playing with the San Francisco 49ers in 2014 and spent five years there before joining the Panthers in 2018.

Speculation surrounded the release and if it was in retaliation for Reid speaking out against the new collective bargaining agreement, as Reid seemed to fit in perfectly in Carolina. As of publication, Reid has not signed with anyone else.

  • Kyle Allen

Kyle Allen was named the backup quarterback to superstar Cam Newton after the Panthers’ training camp over the summer. Sooner than expected, Allen became the starting quarterback after Newton was injured in the second week of the 2019 season.

During the 2019 season, Allen played in 13 games and started in 12 of the 13. In his second career start and the first of the 2019 season, Allen led the Panthers to their first victory of the season, in Week 3 against the Arizona Cardinals.

Allen is headed to Washington D.C. to join former coach Ron Rivera in exchange for a fifth-round pick for Carolina.

  • Mario Addison

Mario Addison spent eight years with the Panthers and recorded 55 sacks in his time with Carolina. He led the team in sacks for the last four years and posted nine and a half sacks in 2019, which would have tied for the lead in Buffalo.

Addison signed a three-year agreement with Buffalo Bills which reunites him with Brandon Beane, Sean McDermott, and Eric Washington, all of whom spent time with him at Carolina.

  • Greg Van Roten

Greg Van Roten comes to the New York Jets with plenty of experience. He has played for four NFL teams and one Canadian Football team, the Toronto Argonauts. He most recently called Charlotte and the Carolina Panthers home but signed a three-year contract with the New York Jets on March 21. Van Roten is very excited about this next step in his journey and tweeted this announcement:

  • Cam Newton

The Panthers made news early in the Free Agency when they signed New Orleans Saints’ backup quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater and announced they gave veteran starting quarterback Cam Newton permission to seek a trade. It was fairly clear the Panthers would release Newton without a trade, and on Mar. 24, the Carolina Panthers officially released the superstar quarterback who has only played for the Panthers in his professional career.

Newton was drafted number one overall in the 2011 NFL Draft and spent nine years as the starting signal-caller for the Carolina Panthers. Newton played 125 games with Carolina and started all but one of the games. In his career, Newton threw 2,371 completions out of 3,980 attempts for 29,041 yards, 182 touchdowns, and 108 interceptions for career rating of 86.1. As of publication, Newton has not signed with another team.

Who’s Staying and Who’s Joining the Panthers?

Before the beginning of free agency, Carolina signed cornerback Cole Luke to a one-year contract extension, kicker Joey Slye to a one-year contract extension, and they signed defensive end Curtis Smith to a one-year deal. Carolina also re-signed DeAndrew White during the Free Agency period.

  • Teddy Bridgewater

The Panthers made some noise when they signed New Orleans Saints backup quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater, to a three-year, reportedly $63 million contract.

Bridgewater started his professional career with the Minnesota Vikings who drafted him in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft. Bridgewater spent four years with Minnesota and two years with the New Orleans Saints. In total Bridgewater has played in 44 games, starting in 34 of the 44 games.

Bridgewater had his opportunity to shine in 2019 when starting veteran quarterback, Drew Brees, was injured and sidelined for five weeks. In 2019, Bridgewater played in nine games, started in five of them and completed 133 of 196 passes for nine touchdowns and two interceptions and a 99.1 rating.

Many Carolina faithful were not happy with this decision as they knew it meant Newton was on his way out, but once their anger and pain are lessened, they are sure to embrace Bridgewater.

  • Stephen Weatherly

On March 16 the Panthers signed defensive end Stephen Weatherly to a two-year, $12.5 million contract. Weatherly was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in the seventh round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Weatherly played 49 games and started in seven games. In his career with the Vikings, he posted 67 total tackles: 45 solos and 22 assists, and 13 tackles for loss.

  • Juston Burris

The Panthers signed cornerback Juston Burris to a two-year $8 million contract to play with Carolina in 2020. Burris comes into his new career with the Panthers after spending two years with the Cleveland Browns and three seasons with the New York Jets.

  • Seth Roberts

Seth Roberts began his professional football career with the Oakland Raiders where he played with them from 2014-2018 and then moved to the Baltimore Ravens for the 2019 season. The Panthers signed him on Mar. 18. In his career, Roberts has played in 78 games, posted 179 receptions for 2,097 yards and 15 receiving touchdowns in addition to three career rushing touchdowns.

  • Tre Boston

The Panthers took this opportunity to make sure Boston is happy in Carolina and wanting to remain a member of the franchise. The Panthers signed Boston to a three-year contract extension worth reportedly $18 million.

Tre Boston started his career with the Carolina Panthers after being drafted by the franchise in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft. Boston stayed with the Panthers three seasons and then played one season each with the Los Angeles Chargers and the Arizona Cardinals, before returning to Carolina last season.

  • John Miller

John Miller was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in the third round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Miller stayed with the Bills for four years before joining the Cinncinati Bengals roster last season. Miller has started in 60 career games and has recorded 3,616 offensive snaps.

  • Pharoh Cooper

Pharoh Cooper is headed back to the east coast to continue his professional football career in Charlotte. Cooper is a North Carolina native and played collegiate football for the South Carolina Gamecocks. Cooper was signed to a one year deal with the Panthers on March 20 and spent a total of three years with the Los Angeles Rams, who drafted him in the 2016 NFL draft, and he played two years with the Arizona Cardinals.

  • P.J. Walker

The Panthers recruited P.J. Walker from the newly revamped XFL league.  Walker was a breakout star for the Houston Roughnecks before the season was suspended due to the COVID-19 crisis.  Walker posted 15 touchdowns, 1,338 yards, and four interceptions in the first five weeks of the XFL season.  P.J. Walker played for head coach Matt Rhule while at Temple and is one of many players reuniting with Coach Rhule.

  • Tahir Whitehead

Tahir Whitehead was drafted by the Detroit Lions in the 2012 NFL Draft and spent six years with the Lions and the last two seasons with the Oakland Raiders.  Whitehead has played in 125 total games in his career with 87 starts, and he posted 5,157 defensive snaps in his career.

  • Robby Anderson

On March 24, the Panthers signed New York Jets wide receiver, Robby Anderson, to a two-year deal reportedly worth $20 million, with $11 million guaranteed in the first year.  Anderson joined the Jets in 2016, spending his entire career with the organization, leaving the Jets to reunite with Rhule, his former head coach from Temple.  He played 62 games with the Jets, starting 47 of them, and recorded impressive stats in his time with the Jets.

  • Zach Kerr

Zach Kerr began his career with the Indianapolis Colts in 2014 and stayed with them through the 2016 season.  Kerr played with Denver Broncos from 2017 to 2018 and played with the Arizona Cardinals in the 2019 season.  He’s played in 75 games in his career, starting 12 of them, recording 135 tackles: 76 solo and 59 assists, and 13 tackles for loss.

  • Keith Kirkwood

The Panthers signed wide receiver Keith Kirkwood to a one-year contract on March 19.  Kirkwood is coming to Carolina from New Orleans where Kirkwood played two seasons, but only in nine games total, starting one of those games.  He posted 13 receptions for 209 yards and two touchdowns in his time on the field in New Orleans.

  • Seth Devalve

Seth Devalve started his professional career with the Cleveland Browns in 2016 (fifth-round draft pick) and played in 41 games, starting 10 of them, and he recorded four receiving touchdowns in his three years with the Browns.  Devalve then played with the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 2019 season, playing in 12 games, starting half of them, and recorded seven receiving touchdowns for the season.

The Future of the Carolina Panthers

It is often said a team is “rebuilding,” particularly when things aren’t going well for the team: it’s a common excuse for losses.  However, in this case, Carolina is defining the term rebuilding.  The head coach, offensive coordinator, and several other higher-level employees are new, there have been at least ten players who left the organization, and more than ten players who have re-signed or joined the Carolina Panthers team.  Matt Rhule is known to take struggling programs and turn them into winning programs and after the less than mediocre 2019 season, the future looks much better for this team.

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