Charles Tillman – Carolina Panthers CB (2015)
The signings of veteran defenders Charles Tillman and Jared Allen were undoubtedly keys to the Carolina Panthers’ dominance during the 2015 season.
After 12 seasons with the Chicago Bears, “Peanut” Tillman, who was more impactful on the field than Allen, signed a one-year deal with the Panthers. Like Kevin Greene, the former Walter Payton Man of Year provided veteran leadership during a season in which Carolina shocked the league.
In 12 games, Tillman tallied 55 combined tackles, two forced fumbles, and two interceptions. Unfortunately, the All-Pro missed the playoffs after suffering a torn ACL in the Panthers’ regular-season finale.
Tillman could only watch from the sidelines as Carolina would go on to lose to the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50. The cornerback signed a one-day contract to retire as a Bear following the end of the 2015 campaign.
Mike Mitchell – Carolina Panthers S (2013)
In his lone season in Carolina, free safety Mike Mitchell proved that you don’t have to be a household name to make a big impact. Coming out of mid-major Ohio University, the safety spent four seasons with the Oakland Raiders before signing a one-year, $1 million contract to play for the Panthers.
The former second-round pick was brought in by head coach Ron Rivera to compete for the starting strong safety spot throughout training camp. Veteran cornerstone Charles Godfrey retained the starting nod, but his season was cut short by injury during a Week 2 matchup against the Buffalo Bills.
Mitchell made the most of his opportunity during that season. His 3.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, eight pass deflections, and four interceptions were all career-highs and his 66 combined tackles were the most he tallied during a season up to that point.
The former Raider was instrumental to a Panthers defense that ranked second in total yards, rushing yards, and points. Carolina would go on to reach its first division title and playoff berth in five seasons, losing to the Colin Kaepernick-led San Francisco 49ers in the divisional round.