5 defensive sleepers for the Carolina Panthers in 2021 free agency

(Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports) Jourdan Lewis
(Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports) Jourdan Lewis /
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Carolina Panthers
(Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports) Poona Ford /

Which potential 2021 free agents could emerge as sleeper targets for the Carolina Panthers later this month?

Even though the Carolina Panthers have managed to get some additional funds to spend in free agency, they will still need to be prudent with how much they allocate to specific targets.

This is a precarious situation that is evident across the league. But considering so many NFL teams are going to be cutting costs in a big way with the salary-cap coming down, there is a real opportunity to boost the ranks with players who might not have been available in normal circumstances.

New general manager Scott Fitterer has his work cut out during his first year in the role. There will be a significant amount of input from head coach Matt Rhule when it comes to recruitment, with the influence of owner David Tepper another potential influence on proceedings that is sure to have a big say in what personnel is brought to the Panthers in the coming weeks.

Carolina Panthers face a high-stakes offseason.

It is a high-stakes offseason for Carolina.

And it’s one they have to get right.

The big names on the market are there for all to see and will be obvious hot commodities. But when one explores the free-agent options available, there does appear to be some real value further down the pecking order that could help right from the outset.

With this in mind, let’s take a look at five defensive sleepers in 2021 free agency that Carolina should take a close look at.

Sleeper No. 1

Carolina Panthers
(Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports) Ifeadi Odenigbo /

Ifeadi Odenigbo – DE

  • 2020 team – Minnesota Vikings

The Carolina Panthers are clearly looking for some additional help generating pressure despite the defensive front making some noticeable strides as the season went on. Although the free-agent signing of Stephen Weatherly didn’t pan out as expected, that shouldn’t prevent them from looking to the Minnesota Vikings again for help in this critical area.

Ifeadi Odenigbo struggled to hit the heights of 2019 without Pro Bowl edge rusher Danielle Hunter commanding the lion’s share of attention this time around due to a neck injury that prevented him from seeing a single snap. However, the defensive end has some outstanding physical traits to call upon and can also assist well in run support, which is another big potential impact that shouldn’t go overlooked.

The Vikings decided to bring Weatherly back on a one-year deal, which might leave Odenigbo on the outside looking in considering how much Minnesota is up against it from a salary-cap perspective.