How integral is Brian Burns to the Carolina Panthers' chances in 2023?

Brian Burns
Brian Burns / Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

How integral is premier pass-rusher Brian Burns to the Carolina Panthers' chances of making noise under new head coach Frank Rech in 2023?

It became pretty obvious what one of the Carolina Panthers' biggest glaring weaknesses was last season. Aside from their torrid quarterback play, having no consistent pass-rush opposite Brian Burns also played a significant part in the organization missing the postseason once again.

Letting Haason Reddick walk in free agency after an exceptional first campaign in Carolina was a critical error. Something that piled additional pressure on Burns to produce the goods despite extra attention coming his way from opposing protection schemes.

Credit to Burns for rising to the challenge en route to the best statistical campaign of his professional career. The former first-round selection notched 12.5 sacks and made his second-straight Pro Bowl - something that vindicated general manager Scott Fitterer's decision to resist a whopping trade offer from the Los Angeles Rams before the deadline.

Brian Burns is pivotal to Carolina Panthers' hopes in 2023

The Panthers are going to make Burns a rich man before Week 1 at the Atlanta Falcons arrives. He's heading into the fifth and final year of his rookie deal and although the negotiations are complex given the money involved, it would be a big surprise if something didn't become official given the mutual desire to work things out.

This would keep Burns in Carolina for his prime years and there's a chance he could flourish further under the expert guidance of Ejiro Evero. The one-time Florida State stud is transitioning to a 3-4 outside linebacker in 2023, which seems tailor-made to his rapid-fire and explosiveness in pursuit of the quarterback.

Burns' importance to the Panthers next season was recently highlighted by Eric Edholm from The lead writer projected the dynamic pass-rusher to attain greatness while also acknowledging that others must also step up and alleviate pressure.

"[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 and the defense likely will go a long way toward determining how many games they’ll win in 2023. You’d like to see other pass-rush sources develop alongside Burns, but he’s thrived amid worse talent. 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,

Carolina hasn't addressed their pass-rushing reinforcements with any sense of urgency this offseason. Evero and his staff seem happy enough with their current options, with players such as Marquis Haynes Sr. and Yetur Gross-Matos praised for their adaptation during workouts to date.

D.J. Johnson - a third-round selection in the 2023 NFL Draft - represents the Panthers' wildcard. There is also more than enough salary-cap space for Carolina to pick up yet another veteran capable of helping immediately.

Regardless of who steps up or comes in, Burns is the key cog as a proven performer, one of the league's best young pass-rushers, and an emerging leader within the locker room. If the Panthers lost him for an extended period of time in 2023, they could likely kiss any chances of an NFC South title goodbye.

That is how integral Burns is to Carolina's hopes not only next season but way into the future once his lucrative contract extension becomes finalized.