Carolina Panthers: Pass-rush will be a real force in 2021
By Dean Jones
The Carolina Panthers now have some notable pass-rushing weapons at their disposal thanks to three big signings during free agency so far.
Getting after the quarterback was a real problem for the Carolina Panthers during the first half of the 2020 season. Unless pressure was being generated by stud defensive end Brian Burns, it wasn’t coming at all. But this might be about to change thanks to some eye-catching signings during the first few days of free agency this week.
The Panthers took their time to get going once the legal tampering period began, which was in keeping with general manager Scott Fitterer’s desire to adopt a patent approach. However, this all changed on Wednesday with a flurry of activity that is set to transform their fortunes on defense.
Denzel Perryman arrived on a two-year deal from the Los Angeles Chargers, which was swiftly followed by the additions of Haason Reddick and Morgan Fox from the Arizona Cardinals and Los Angeles Rams respectively.
This major investment in Carolina’s front seven is sure to stand them in good stead when competitive action rolls around in 2021. All three players bring a fierce competitive edge and on the back of successful seasons last time out, which should compliment Phil Snow’s unit after they also came on a great deal as the campaign went on.
Carolina Panthers finally have plenty of edge weapons.
Slotting Reddick onto an edge rush that also includes Burns and second-round pick Yetur Gross-Matos has incredible potential. The former Temple star reunited with his former college coach Matt Rhule and $6 million guaranteed is incredible value for someone who gained 12.5 sacks in 2020.
This is a win-win deal for both parties. If Reddick has another campaign like the one he’s just had, then a bumper payday will be in the offing – something Carolina could possibly provide with the salary-cap set to soar thanks to revenue improvements and a new TV deal.
Reddick’s arrival should also take some of the pressure off Burns, who took his game to new heights last season without having a prolific presence on the opposite side of the field.
Carolina’s decision to release Zach Kerr raised a fair few eyebrows. But this was offset by the acquisition of Fox, who can operate either on the edge or as a three-technique on the interior, which will most likely be his position with the Panthers.
Fox gained six sacks for the Rams last season working alongside the NFL’s best defensive lineman, Aaron Donald. He’ll be put together with another top talent in the form of Derrick Brown, the Panthers’ No. 7 overall selection last year who really caught the eye during his rookie campaign.
A tandem of Fox and Brown will be a big asset for Carolina, especially considering Efe Obada may also be leaving after not being given a tender by the organization.
If that wasn’t enough, the Panthers also acquired the services of Perryman, who is a ferocious linebacker capable of making a difference anywhere on the field. Carolina missed the presence of Luke Kuechly an untold amount after his shock retirement last year and adding the former second-round pick only enhances their athletic, vibrant defense that has the potential to go on to great things in 2021 and beyond.
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With Marquis Haynes, Bravvion Roy, and the impending return of Christian Miller also boosting the depth chart, there are now plenty of options for the Panthers to call upon. This doesn’t guarantee success, but it would be a huge surprise if Carolina didn’t improve on the 1.8 sacks-per-game they generated last season.