Grading the Carolina Panthers first five moves of 2023 free agency

(Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports) Vonn Bell
(Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports) Vonn Bell /
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How did the Carolina Panthers get on with their first five major moves over the opening hours of the NFL’s legal tampering period in 2023?

After the chaos that followed trading up for the No. 1 overall selection in the NFL Draft, the Carolina Panthers had to quickly turn their attention to free agency. The legal tampering period formally got underway on Monday and it didn’t take long for major moves to transpire across the league with huge sums of cash being thrown around for premier talent.

The Panthers had a decent chunk of change to spend, but not enough to go after a marquee guy. Therefore, general manager Scott Fitterer and his team had to identify cost-effective veterans that matched the new systems that are being implemented by the coaching staff in 2023.

There will be a lot more activity to come before the all-important draft that the Panthers now control at the top end. Fitterer will want plenty of flexibility when the college selection process rolls around, so expect further acquisitions in the very near future.

For now, we took an in-depth look and graded Carolina’s first five major moves of 2023 free agency.

Move No. 1

Carolina Panthers
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Sam Franklin /

Carolina Panthers tendered Sam Franklin Jr. (S)

  • One-year deal: $2.62 million

While Sam Franklin Jr. has found life difficult carving out a prominent spot on the defensive rotation, his special teams’ play over the last two years has been nothing short of exceptional. And with coordinator Chris Tabor sticking around, tendering the former Temple star to a one-year deal worth $2.62 million was an easy decision to make.

Grade: A

Special teams are often overlooked but nonetheless important. Keeping Franklin on the books allows the Carolina Panthers to retain one of their core guys in this key area and could even see the player come into his own under Ejiro Evero’s guidance.

Carolina Panthers
(Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports) Shy Tuttle /

Carolina Panthers signed Shy Tuttle (DT)

The Carolina Panthers needed some defensive line help as Ejiro Evero gets set to transition into a 3-4 base that promises to change frequently depending on the situation. They managed to get their nose tackle locked up quickly, agreeing to terms with Shy Tuttle – a former undrafted free agent who spent his first four seasons with the New Orleans Saints.

Tuttle is a solid run-stuffer who demonstrated growth in pass-rushing situations last season. This is a decent pickup and should allow Derrick Brown to occupy a 3-4 defensive end role, where his talents are best suited.

There was a lot to like about the way Tuttle applied himself during his stint with Carolina’s fierce NFC South rival. The former Tennessee star was a key part of their defensive line rotation in 2022, turning in 49 percent of snaps and making a lasting contribution in all phases.

One thing that stands out about Tuttle is his tackling. He wraps his man up well and boasts enough power to shed blocks in pursuit of any oncoming runner.

Grade: B

The lineman also has no trouble impacting the passing game, which came on leaps and bounds last season en route to five passes defended. If the Panthers can get themselves another solid 3-4 defensive end to put alongside Tuttle and Brown with Brian Burns and Frankie Luvu operating on the outside, they’ll be in business.