PANTHERS FREE AGENCY: Team adds offensive and defensive line players while losing three 2020 starters

By Richard Walker

Cam Erving during his visit to Charlotte’s Bank of America Stadium after signing a free agent contract. [@panthers twitter photo]
Carolina Panthers had to know the offeseason would be a busy one after head coach Matt Rhule went 5-11 in his first season.

And this week delivered seven free agent additions and six free agent departures.

Early in the week, the Panthers focused on restocking the offensive line by signing guard Pat Elfein from the New York Jets and Cam Erving from the Dallas Cowboys.

Elfien was signed to a three-year, $13.5 million contract. A 6-foot-3, 303-pounder, Elfein is 26 after his fourth NFL season. A 2017 third round draft pick out of Ohio State by the Minnesota Vikings, Elfein has started 49 of the 50 games he’s played for the Vikings and Jets; Elfein started the last six games of the 2020 season for the Jets after being waived by the Vikings in November.

Erving was signed to the most lucrative deal of the free agents – a $5 million annual salary – when he inked a two-year, $10 million contract. A 6-foot-5, 313-pounder, Erving is 28 after his sixth NFL season. A 2015 first round draft pick out of Florida State by the Cleveland Browns, Erving had started 47 of 75 career games for the Browns, Kansas City Chiefs and Cowboys. In the 2019 season, he started eight games for the Super Bowl champion Chiefs.

Later in the week, Carolina stocked it defense while replacing its most damaging free agent defection.

Defensive end Morgan Fox of the Los Angeles Rams was signed to a two-year, $8.5 million contract. Linebackers Haason Reddick (one year for $8 million) and Denzel Perryman (two years for undisclosed) and cornerback Rashaan Melvin (one year for undisclosed) were later added.

Fox, 26, is a 6-foot-3, 275-pound defensive end who has started six of 52 career games in five years for the Rams after being an undrafted free agent from NCAA Division II Colorado State Pueblo.

Reddick, 26, is a 6-foot-1, 235-pound outside linebacker who has started 31 of 64 career games in four season for the Arizona Cardinals. Reddick was a first round in 2017 of the Cardinals out of Temple where he played for Rhule. Initially a walk-on running back the year before Rhule coached the Owles, Reddick shined in the four years he and Rhule turned the Owls into a two-time bowl participant.

Perryman, 28, is a 5-foot-11, 240-pound inside linebacker who has started 51 of 69 games in his six years with the Los Angeles Chargers after he was a second round draft pick out of Miami, Fla., in 2015.

And Melvin, 31, is a 6-foot-2, 194-pound cornerback who has started 40 of 64 games in his nine years with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Baltimore Ravens, New England Patriots, Indianapolis Colts, Oakland Raiders, Detroit Lions and Jacksonville Jaguars after being an undrafted free agent out of Northern Illinois in 2013.

New general manager Scott Fitterer reached back to his Seattle Seahawks past as the team signed wide receiver David Moore to a two-year, $4.75 million contract. Moore has started 14 of 47 games in four-year career with the Seahawks after being an undrafted free agent out of NCAA Division II East Central, Tex. Moore had a career-high 35 catches for 417 yards and six touchdowns last season for Seattle.

Moore will be looked to as a player who could fill the void left behind by starting wide receiver wide receiver Curtis Samuels, who left the Panthers to sign a three-year, $34.5 million contract with the Washington Football Team that is coached by former Carolina head coach Ron Rivera. Samuel is coming off a career-best season of 1,051 yards from scrimmage rushing and receiving in which he was one of four Panthers to surpass 1,000 yards from scrimmage; receivers D.J. Moore (1,215 yards) and Robby Anderson (1,111) and running back Mike Davis (1,015) were the others.

Finally, the Panthers signed tight end Dan Arnold on Friday evening for two years and $6 million. Arnold, 26, played under Carolina offensive coordinator Joe Brady with the New Orleans Saints and is a four-year NFL veteran after signing as an undrafted free agent out of NCAA Division III Wisconsin-Platteville. Arnold has started seven of 31 career games for the Saints and Arizona Cardinals.

Two other starters signed free agent contracts elsewhere this week – tight end Chris Manhertz signed a two-year, $6.65 million contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars and defensive end Stephen Weatherly signed a one-year, $2.5 million contract with the Minnesota Vikings. Other Panthers who signed elsewhere were fullback Alex Armah (one year for $1.27 million contract with New Orleans Saints), punter Michael Palardy (one year for $1.14 million with the Miami Dolphins) and center Tyler Larsen (one year for $1.04 million contract with the Washington Football Team).

The Panthers are expected to sign more free agents in the coming weeks, but Rhule, Fitterer and Panthers staffers have been attending NFL Pro Day workouts all across the country as the team prepares for the April 29-May 1 NFL Draft in Cleveland.

Carolina will have eight picks in the seven-round draft; The Panthers choose Nos. 8, 39, 73, 113, 151, 192, 220 and 224 overall. They have one pick in the first through fifth rounds, three in the sixth round and none in the seventh round; The seventh-rounder was traded away to the Buffalo Bills.