Jan 3, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; Missouri Tigers defensive lineman Kony Ealy (47) during the game against the Oklahoma State Cowboys in the 2014 Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium. Missouri won 41-31. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Carolina Panthers DE Insurance: Kony Ealy

 

There are two things that stand out to me regarding Dave Gettleman and his first two drafts as the Carolina Panthers GM. The players selected, and how fast the decision was made when the Panthers were on the clock.

With the 60th pick of the 2014 NFL Draft the Carolina Panthers selected Kony Ealy in the second round – immediately.

Gettleman stated they had a first round rating on Ealy so the decision was simple when the Panthers got to their pick. Ealy, a 6-5, 275-pound DE from Missouri, was thought to be a wasted pick at the time. Considering the Panthers were coming off of a 12-4 season and the defensive line is one of the strongest and deepest in the league, every mock draft predicted the Panthers would take a LT to replace retired Jordan Gross. However, after some off the field issues and suspensions along the defensive front, it appears that Gettleman couldn’t have made a better pick.

Let’s start with Frank Alexander.

Alexander has shown promise throughout his short career with Carolina having 3.5 sacks, 3 fumble recoveries, and 19 tackles in two years. His stats don’t say a lot, but considering the amount of snaps and games played it’s nice to have players that come off the bench and contribute.

Alexander’s troubles started early last year when he was ejected from the Seahawks game for unsportsmanlike conduct. The call gave the Seahawks a first down on a pivotal drive, which in turn, helped them pull off a slim victory. Alexander was disciplined for his actions and didn’t step on the field the following couple of games. This year, Alexander has already been suspended the first 4 games of the season for failing a drug test for PED’s and, in my mind, has put his career in jeopardy with the Panthers and there “no nonsense” management mentality.

Now we move to the defensive line’s  pride and joy….The Kraken!

After signing a franchise tag for $13.1 million Greg Hardy , a former sixth-round pick, finally lived up to the potential that made him the player everyone was hoping he would be.  Then came Nelly (yes, the rapper)….. Hardy was charged with a misdemeanor domestic violence offense when Hardy and his ex-girlfriend got into an altercation over a supposedly short lived relationship between her and Nelly.

Hardy has not been convicted yet, but past Panther management has set a precedent that if convicted, he could serve a suspension.

Either way, if he or Alexander are suspended, that leaves the Panthers potentially down two players on the defensive line.

Being down a premier player in Hardy and an “up and coming” player in Alexander leaves us with Mario Addison and Ealy. Addison had 2.5 sacks last year with two starts, and has a great motor with a play to the whistle mentality. He could help carry the load as a starter with Ealy coming off the bench, but who knows how productive he would be as an every down player.

That’s where the insurance policy comes into play with Ealy. If, for some reason, Hardy and Alexander are out at the beginning of the season the Panthers don’t have the bench depth that can come in and contribute like Alexander and Addison last season without Ealy on the roster.

Ealy recorded seven sacks last year for Missouri. He is big and strong and resembles Hardy being long and agile. Also, like Hardy, Ealy can play inside as another rusher on passing downs and is decent against the run. Not only is Ealy an insurance policy this year, but also looking forward.

Hardy is looking for a 90 Million dollar contract and with Cam and Luke’s contracts coming up it’s hard to say if they can afford another big contract. Having another potential starter still on his rookie contract for the next 5 years could be a win all around for Gettleman and the Carolina Panthers.

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