4 early free agents the Carolina Panthers should monitor in 2023

(Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports) Devin Singletary
(Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports) Devin Singletary /
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Carolina Panthers
(Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports) Azeez Al-Shaair /

Carolina Panthers should monitor Azeez Al-Shaair

The story surrounding Azeez Al-Shaair is an inspiring one. Picked up from undrafted free-agent obscurity by the San Francisco 49ers in 2019, the athletic linebacker quickly emerged as a key member of the team’s defense thanks to his blend of tremendous skills and outstanding work ethic.

Al-Shaair’s production last season was the best of his young career by a considerable margin. The former Florida Atlantic standout notched 102 tackles, five passes defended, two sacks, nine tackles for loss, one interception, and a creditable 64.8 grade from Pro Football Focus, which was a tremendous effort from someone who was a relative afterthought during his pre-draft assessment.

Things haven’t gone quite as smoothly for Al-Shaair in 2022 due to injury. He was activated from injured/reserve this week, so how he performs down the stretch could have lasting implications on what San Francisco does with the player before his contract expires.

The Carolina Panthers need help at the second level, especially if they decide to make the likes of Damien Wilson or Shaq Thompson salary-cap casualties. Cory Littleton is also out of contract, so this could be a significantly depleted area of the field next spring.

If Al-Shaair becomes available, then the Panthers should take a close look. This move is also unlikely to cost the earth, which would be welcome with money at a premium.