Carolina Panthers linked with controversial free-agent defensive lineman

Could this be a risk worth taking?

Grover Stewart
Grover Stewart / Robert Scheer-USA TODAY Sports

The Carolina Panthers were linked to a recently suspended defensive lineman to bolster options alongside Derrick Brown in free agency.

Ejiro Evero's defense could be among the league's best with another offseason to develop chemistry and with a few tweaks to personnel. Keeping the defensive coordinator around was one of head coach Dave Canales' primary objectives, something he achieved successfully much to the delight of fans. It won't be much longer before he gets a top job, so maximizing his presence next season is paramount.

Placing the right pieces around quarterback Bryce Young is arguably the team's biggest objective. Even so, those in power cannot get complacent on the defensive side of things, especially given the number of injuries suffered throughout the previous campaign. After potentially extending Frankie Luvu and franchise-tagging Brian Burns, there won't be much money left over. Spending wisely will be crucial, which highlights how pivotal Brandt Tilis' role will be this offseason.

When one looks at the current state of affairs, the defensive line needs to be identified as an area where some extra quality could make a massive difference. Derrick Brown is on track to superstardom after a record-breaking season in 2023. No consistency arrived from elsewhere, which made the former first-round pick's performance levels all the more impressive.

Carolina Panthers linked with free-agent Grover Stewart

This was a sentiment echoed by Aaron Schatz of ESPN. The writer thought it might be worth the Panthers taking a swing at controversial defensive lineman Grover Stewart, who was suspended for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy but remains a strong presence against the run.

"The Panthers need a lot of things this offseason, but let's start with how they ranked last in run defense DVOA last season. They could address that problem with a big interior defensive lineman like [Grover] Stewart. Last season, he served a six-game suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs. Without Stewart, the Colts had a run defense DVOA of 10%, which would have been the worst in the league for the entire season. In the other 11 games, the Colts had a run defense DVOA of minus-12%, which would have been 13th. He also takes on a lot of double-teams, which would help Carolina's pass-rushers to get to the quarterback."

Aaron Schatz, ESPN

Stewart's suspension brings an obvious red flag into the thought process. That said, everyone deserves a second chance and the player showed no signs of further disciplinary issues upon returning to the Indianapolis Colts' lineup.

The former fourth-round selection out of Albany State failed to offer much from a pass-rushing perspective last season, but a lot of Stewart's good work doesn't show up on the stat sheet. He excels at clogging up and providing freedom for others to flourish. This would be perfect for Carolina's 3-4 base scheme under Evero.

There's also a lot to like about Stewart's ability to assist with run support. He's a big dude and incredibly difficult to move off the block. His hands are violent and his lower base core allows him to generate push even without the required leverage. Much will depend on the money, but the Panthers could do far worse than examine his credentials thoroughly.

This will likely be Stewart's last chance to earn decent money given he's on the wrong side of 30 years old right now. The Colts might also make a concerted effort to keep him around in pursuit of extending his seven-year stay. Providing the Panthers are happy his error in judgment was a one-off, it's an option well worth considering.

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