Carolina Panthers DL Derrick Brown finally recognized among NFL's elite

Derrick Brown
Derrick Brown / Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Nobody associated with the Carolina Panthers will dispute the fact Derrick Brown was their best player last season.

Brown was nothing short of sensational despite the team's lowly record. He's one of the few cornerstone pieces this franchise can build around for potential prosperity. He made his first Pro Bowl and broke the NFL's single-season tackle record for interior defensive linemen. This cemented his status as an integral piece of Carolina's puzzle under the new regime.

The Panthers rewarded Brown accordingly. Paying established contributors is something the previous decision-makers failed to accomplish effectively, but Dan Morgan made a significant statement by handing the former first-round pick a four-year, $96 million extension to keep him around for his prime.

Carolina Panthers can depend on Derrick Brown in 2024

Brown is now being paid like one of the league's best at the position. He's also gaining widespread notoriety among the NFL's elite at long last.

When ranking the league's best defensive tackles, Sam Monson from Pro Football Focus placed Brown at No. 4. Only Chris Jones, Dexter Lawrence, and Quinnen Williams were ahead of him, which was thanks in no small part to his exceptional playmaking ability during the previous campaign.

"The first player on the list who is more of a run specialist than a pass-rusher, [Derrick] Brown has been the best interior run defender in the game over the past two seasons, earning a 90.1 PFF run-defense grade. He tallied a massive 53 defensive stops last season alone, 10 more than any other interior player."

Sam Monson, PFF

This is nothing more than Brown deserves. Many questioned whether the Panthers were right to pick the Auburn product at No. 7 overall in the 2020 NFL Draft. After four highly productive seasons, there are no more doubts whatsoever.

He's not the flashiest player to ever grace the gridiron. However, Brown is fiercely driven, leads by example, and can be counted upon to make plays in big moments. If he takes another step forward next season under the watchful eye of defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero, a potential All-Pro selection is well within his capabilities.

Having another capable presence alongside Brown on the defensive front should also assist greatly. The Panthers signed A'Shawn Robinson in free agency to become exactly that. If both players stay healthy, this could be a profitable partnership.

Hopes couldn't be much higher for Brown entering his fifth season in a professional environment. He's one of the undisputed team alphas and is looking to repay the faith shown in him by the front office. If others step up following several key defensive departures, it's hard to envisage a scenario where the Panthers fall flat on their face again.

Considering the financial commitment, the Panthers are expecting an immediate return on their investment. Looking at the way Brown's career has unfolded up to now, that's pretty much guaranteed.