After conflicting reports on Monday, the Carolina Panthers potentially sealing a deal with veteran pass-rusher Carlos Dunlap is “very much alive”.
The Carolina Panthers are clearly looking for alternative options on their defensive front before Week 1 against the Cleveland Browns. They have plenty of salary-cap space to get something done, with interior lineman Danny Shelton reportedly coming in for a visit as the team gets set to hit the practice field in Spartanburg for training camp.
Shelton is a former first-round selection that hasn’t lived up to this billing as yet. His run-stopping capabilities for the New York Giants last time around also came in for significant criticism, so just how much he can help the Panthers during such a crucial campaign remains to be seen.
Another potential option explored by the front office following the 2022 NFL Draft was Carlos Dunlap. The experienced edge defender came in for a visit during the team’s mandatory minicamp and although he left without a deal, nothing has been ruled out one way or another.
Carolina Panthers reportedly spoke with Carlos Dunlap’s representatives before camp
There were some conflicting reports from Will Kunkel of FOX Charlotte on Monday after the Shelton news was announced by Ian Rappaport of the NFL Network. After initially claiming that the Panthers were no longer pursuing Dunlap, the same person revealed that Carolina spoke with the player’s representatives yesterday and the deal is “very much alive“.
The quicker Dunlap arrives, the better. Carolina lost Haason Reddick to the Philadelphia Eagles in free agency and needs another consistent performer on the pass-rushing rotation to improve their chances of progression in 2022.
Dunlap knows general manager Scott Fitterer well from their time together on the Seattle Seahawks, which is obviously key if any agreement comes to fruition. The former second-round selection has 96 career sacks and looked to have plenty left in the tank in 2021 en route to eight quarterback takedowns from just 38 percent of defensive snaps.
The Panthers are likely to give Marquis Haynes and Yetur Gross-Matos increased roles opposite Brian Burns in the wake of Reddick’s departure. But if neither player takes the necessary leap, then having a proven performer such as Dunlap would be a major asset to call upon.
This would provide another veteran leader within the locker room, which always helps. Dunlap also appeared keen when replying to an Instagram post about the move, so this could be a mutually beneficial arrangement if both sides reach a compromise.
Striking a deal quickly would also give Dunlap plenty of time to familiarize himself with Phil Snow’s system and his new teammates in training camp. But the veteran has been around long enough to know how best to prepare his body for an NFL campaign.
If the Panthers got something done with Dunlap, then it would only enhance their hopes of being competitive next season. Consistent pass-rushers don’t grow on trees and based on their current options, replicating Reddick’s 11 sacks last season will be difficult.
Expect this situation to resolve one way or another in the coming days. And hopefully, Dunlap will be in a Panthers uniform sooner rather than later.