Did the Carolina Panthers give up on Daviyon Nixon too soon?
By Dean Jones
Daviyon Nixon was waived by the Carolina Panthers after just one season, but did those in power give up on the defensive tackle too soon?
It’s no secret that the Carolina Panthers were looking to boost their defensive line ahead of the 2022 season. Losing Haason Reddick and DaQuan Jones in free agency meant options were a little thin, with a reliance on young players during a crucial Year 3 for Matt Rhule also representing a major gamble in the circumstances.
The Panthers made a move on Monday with the acquisition of versatile lineman Henry Anderson. The Stanford product gained seven sacks with the New York Jets in 2021, but he’s accumulated just 1.5 quarterback takedowns ever since and it remains to be seen just how much he can assist on the rotation next season.
Of course, this meant someone had to go. Carolina opted to part ways with Daviyon Nixon, their 2021 fifth-round selection who flashed some real promise before his rookie campaign was cut short after seven games.
This was an eyebrow raiser, to put it mildly. General manager Scott Fitterer praised Nixon’s progress and versatility to potentially help as a three-technique or on the edge should the right situations come along just a few short days ago, so to speak so glowingly and then part ways is an odd turn of events.
There is a chance Nixon comes back onto the practice squad providing he clears waivers. But another team could take a long look at the player due to the upside involved.
Carolina Panthers waiving Daviyon Nixon was a tough decision
When asked about the Panthers’ decision to cut ties with Nixon, head coach Matt Rhule stated it was a tough call to make. He added that some members of the coaching staff like seventh-rounder Phil Hoskins and Marquan McCall after the undrafted free agent enjoyed a phenomenal preparation period.
What the future holds for Nixon is unclear. There are enough physical attributes for the former Iowa standout to carve out a successful career for himself, with the character concerns that caused him to slide during the 2021 draft proving false if his time in Carolina was any indication.
Nixon gained nine tackles, 0.5 sacks, two quarterback hits, and three pressures from just seven games and 18 percent of Carolina’s defensive snaps in 2021. Good rotational players that can produce at a moment’s notice are hard to find, so this does appear like a strange move from the Panthers in that regard.
Perhaps the serious knee injury Nixon suffered last year caused him to lose some explosiveness. And the decision to acquire Barnes in favor of another defensive lineman does nothing to alter legitimate concerns about the pass-rushing depth.
It will be a nervous wait for Nixon to see where he ends up next. If the Panthers get a chance, he should be on their practice squad, which gives them additional time to develop a player with all the athletic traits needed.
Nothing should surprise fans about the Panthers’ roster-building process. Nixon is another sacrificial lamb as the organization continues to pick up veterans rather than develop draft picks effectively.
This has a lot to do with how much pressure is on Carolina to make real strides next season. If those in power weren’t 100 percent convinced in their current options, then taking a swing with Barnes despite his lack of production was something always likely to happen.
Nixon is on the outside looking in, for now at least. But if the Panthers don’t get the opportunity to stash him on their practice squad, it’s a decision they might come to regret.