With the NFL’s free agency period coming to a close, many teams’ new acquisitions are practicing with their respective franchises, seeing as most big-name free agents found themselves either a new home or a new contract. The ending of free agency brings football fans closer and closer to the regular season, with many wishing time would work its magic and speed up a bit.
When analysts look at a team’s off-season, which includes free agency, they often determine how good they will be based on grading their off-season acquisitions. Some teams are notorious for doing little-to-nothing in free agency and some are famous for spending countless hours of work searching and signing the free-agents whom they believe can make a huge impact on their organization.
This off-season, the Carolina Panthers re-wrote the script. The Panthers, one of the teams notorious for taking a backseat in free agency, quietly had one of the best free agency periods of any team. The reason they’re being overlooked is that many analysts and TV personalities alike often throw the Panthers’ free agency of 2019 aside to talk about flashier and more star-studded teams, with one example being the highly-covered Cleveland Browns. But today, we will be giving the Carolina Panthers some love as we will be grading the top free agency acquisitions made by the franchise. So, without further ado, let’s jump right into the action.
Top Carolina Panthers Free Agency Acquisitions
Off-Season Acquisition #1: Signing Defensive Tackle Gerald McCoy
Contract Details: One year/$8 Million
Let’s just go ahead and get one of the team’s biggest acquisitions out of the way. Signing Gerald McCoy was arguably the best acquisition the Panthers made all free agency. The six-time Pro-Bowler can step in and make an instant impact on the Panthers’ defensive line, a unit which is looking scarier and scarier by the day. After leading the Buccaneers’ defense with 17 solo tackles, 11 assisted tackles, and six sacks, the 31-year-old defensive monster was cut by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to save cap room early in the off-season.
McCoy will enter Carolina with a chip on his shoulder, seeing as the Buccaneers gave his old number to newcomer Ndamukong Suh just moments after McCoy was forced to leave the franchise he went to war so many times for. McCoy may feel betrayed and, therefore, will come out and play some of his best football to prove his worth again. This deal was the perfect move for the Panthers.
There is only one potential problem that exists with the McCoy signing, that being his age. The 31-year-old isn’t putting up the same numbers he once was as a Pro-Bowl type player, but he still produces at a high-level.
Acquisition’s Grade: A+
Off-Season Acquisition #2: Signing Center Matt Paradis
Contract Details: Three years/about $29 Million
This was exactly the move the Panthers needed to make in free agency. With the retirement of legendary Panthers center Ryan Kalil, the organization had to use free agency to find their center of the future and that’s exactly what they did. Since 2015, Paradis has started every game he has appeared in, so the Panthers are receiving a very experienced veteran who can provide Cam Newton with good protection, which he desperately needs. After Panthers fans watched Newton take a season-ending hit from T.J. Watt, it became clear that the Panthers had to engage operation “protect QB1” in free agency.
The main reason Panthers’ fans should love the Paradis signing is because it gives stability to an offensive line that was in shambles last season. With Paradis captaining this offensive line, don’t be surprised if the Panthers have one of the best O-lines in the league next year.
The only minus with Paradis is his health. Late in the season last year, Paradis suffered a fractured fibula and spent the rest of the season on injured reserve. He did, however, pass a physical from Panthers team doctors, so one would assume he will be available for next season. Barring any injuries prior to the season, there really is no drawback to the Paradis signing as long as he can stay healthy.
Acquisition’s Grade: A
Off-Season Acquisition #3: Re-signing Free Safety Eric Reid
Contract Details: Three years/$22 Million
In 2018, Eric Reid appeared in 13 games for the Panthers and became an integral part of the Panthers’ defensive unit, so it only made sense to bring the veteran free safety back on a team-friendly deal. The deal Reid and the Panthers settled on seems like a steal when compared to the rest of the market at the position. Reid could have made more money elsewhere, but he may have taken the lesser-amount of money to save the team cap room, allowing them to go after other big names in free agency. Reid played very well for the Panthers last season and fans of the organization should be very happy that Reid will stay in the Carolinas for the foreseeable future.
There really aren’t any cons to this signing.
Acquisition’s Grade: A
Off-Season Acquisition #4: Signing Linebacker Bruce Irvin
Contract Details: One year/$4 Million
This signing was one many people didn’t see coming. A hated rival turned teammate in Bruce Irvin provides the Panthers’ locker-room with a huge veteran presence. The 32-year-old played at a very high level during the 2018-2019 season with the defensive end racking up 6.5 sacks, 16 solo tackles, and one forced fumble. This signing provides the Panthers with great depth at the defensive end area and takes up very little cap space, seeing as the deal is a team-friendly one. While his numbers may be on the decline, Irvin still has a lot of good football left in him and Panthers’ fans should have been very happy upon seeing this news since it was one of the best acquisitions the team made all offseason.
The only drawback to this signing is Irvin’s age. At 32, he is clearly on the back end of his career and isn’t producing the way he once was. Even if Irvin takes a large step back in this upcoming season, the deal only lasts for one year. So, if things don’t work out, the organization can let him walk in free agency.
Acquisition’s Grade: B
Overall, these acquisitions made by the Panthers during free agency should help turn this playoff-push type team into an NFC Championship title contender.