Carolina Panthers' marquee free-agent signing named among NFL's elite

The Carolina Panthers are hoping their big investment pays off.
Robert Hunt
Robert Hunt / Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

The Carolina Panthers made several important additions to their lackluster roster throughout the offseason. None could be more important than Robert Hunt.

Dan Morgan didn't have much wiggle room financially before free agency. The Panthers maneuvered things effectively to land Hunt, who penned a megabucks deal with the franchise to instantly solidify their offensive line interior. Something that should benefit second-year quarterback Bryce Young tremendously on his road to potential redemption.

Hunt signed a four-year, $100 million deal. This included a $26.5 million signing bonus and $63 million guaranteed. He was arguably the best interior lineman available from the veteran pool, so this was a huge coup for the Panthers. One that represented a real statement of intent from Morgan as part of his ambitious plans to take the organization forward.

The former second-round selection played just 547 snaps for the Miami Dolphins last season due to injury, but his production was outstanding. Hunt was a commanding force on running plays and displayed assured pass protection. He conceded one sack and two penalties en route to an impressive 77.1 grade from Pro Football Focus. Something similar in Carolina will be key to taking the next step into the elite category.

Carolina Panthers upgraded their interior offensive line considerably with Robert Hunt

Jeff Kerr from CBS Sports doesn't think Hunt is too far away from attaining this feat. The analyst placed him at No. 11 in his list of interior forces around the league. He thought the signing was a great piece of business by the Panthers. However, concerns were raised about whether his consistency was down to Mike McDaniel's schematic concepts more than anything else.

"A massive season from [Robert] Hunt got him paid this offseason by the Carolina Panthers, as his pass protection has consistently improved year after year. Hunt played just 11 games in 2023, but allowed only one sack and three pressures in 315 pass-blocking snaps (1.0% pressure rate allowed per dropback). Hunt was a product of an offense that got rid of the ball quickly, so the question remains if he'll replicate the same success in Carolina. He's still on the rise as a guard, and the Panthers are better up front with him on the field."

Jeff Kerr, CBS Sports

Hunt benefitted from his environment, there's no getting away from that. He's also got the athletic intangibles to cope well within any scheme. That's good news for the Panthers, who need to provide Young with cleaner pockets and get a true evaluation of the signal-caller next time around.

Dave Canales made no secret about what the primary objective is with Young's development throughout their first offseason working together. He wants the No. 1 overall selection in the 2023 NFL Draft to improve his footwork and get the football out of his hands quicker. This is a system Hunt thrived in previously, so there's a lot to like about the Louisiana product's chances of thriving further in a different environment.

Couple this with the arrival of left guard Damien Lewis, and Carolina's offensive line should be a force once again in 2024. Much will depend on whether edge protector Ikem Ekwonu can bounce back and how Austin Corbett copes with his position change, but all signs are pointing up.

If Hunt enjoys better luck on the health front, this hefty investment in securing his services should pay off handsomely. But make no mistake, others must also meet their end of the bargain if the Panthers want to emerge from rock bottom next season.