Panthers News: Brian Burns, Yetur Gross-Matos, Justin Houston and workouts

Yetur Gross-Matos
Yetur Gross-Matos / Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
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Carolina Panthers OLB Brian Burns' importance

All the focus has been on quarterback Bryce Young after their landmark trade to No. 1 overall in the 2023 NFL Draft. But if the Carolina Panthers want to make a legitimate playoff push and win the NFC South next season, their young defense must rise to the occasion under the masterful guidance of Ejiro Evero.

The obvious focal point is Brian Burns. One of the brightest young pass-rushers in the business is looking for a lucrative contract extension before the season begins, which is thanks in no small part to an outstanding start to his professional career and two straight Pro Bowl campaigns for good measure.

Burns is a cornerstone franchise piece for the Panthers and will be counted upon heavily during his transition to a 3-4 outside linebacker. So it came as no surprise to see the former first-round pick named by Eric Edholm of NFL.com as Carolina's non-quarterback MVP in 2023.

"[Brian] Burns turned in his best pass-rushing season to date in Year 4 and might be primed for more greatness this year. He figures to be the centerpiece of a defense that features four former first-round picks and four former second-rounders. Burns is coming off ankle surgery this offseason, and he has yet to cash in on a big-money extension -- but you figure that’s coming at some point, with a rookie-QB salary on the books. Carolina might be smart to lock Burns up before he registers another double-digit sack season."

Eric Edholm, NFL.com

Hopefully, the Panthers will be less reliant on Burns when it comes to generating pressure. But they can relax safe in the knowledge he's sure to flourish as a fifth-year-pro and emerging leader within the locker room.