Carolina Panthers Strengthen Defense With Key Moves

Dec 24, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers defensive end Mario Addison (97) reacts after a sack in the fourth quarter against the Atlanta Falcons at Bank of America Stadium. The Falcons defeated the Panthers 33-16. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The Carolina Panthers made moves to remain consistent on the defensive side of the ball with Mario Addison and Kawann Short.

The Carolina Panthers walked into the 2017 offseason with nearly $50 million dollars available in cap space. One of the most pressing questions was whether or not Carolina will bring back Kawann Short. Short has become a valuable member of this defensive line and the Panthers continue to work towards consistency throughout the roster.

By placing the franchise tag on Short and other recent moves, the team shows that they are committed to keeping as much of the roster together while making the best small changes available.

The Panthers officially placed the franchise tag on Short, hitting the cap for a projected $14.77 million. That’s a big number, but Short’s value has increased in recent years. While some may worry that Short and Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman may not come to an agreement, this situation is in a better position than last year with Josh Norman. According to David Newton of ESPN, Short mentioned that he will “probably” sign the tag. Doing so would give the two sides much more time to work out a long-term deal.

Besides the move with Short, the Panthers have taken additional steps to shore up their defensive unit. Both Mario Addison and Wes Horton were locked into new deals. Addison signed a three-year deal while Horton received a two-year deal for his service. Both Addison and Horton contributed in key ways throughout the year and have grown into their roles as they’ve matured in the NFL.

Addison was the team’s leading sack machine last year, brining 9.5 sacks. Horton may not have stats that leap off of the page, but he contributed enough to earn a spot on what is expected to be a defensive line by committee. When the returning Vernon Butler is added to the group, it seems like the Panthers are putting together a unit that can have a major impact on a game.

There’s also the question of whether or not Charles Johnson will return to the team. Johnson is second all-time in sacks for Carolina. 2016 may not have been his best season, but bringing him back for another season helps keep things consistent on this defensive line. The Panthers have made similar moves in the past, such as re-signing Mike Tolbert last season, to make an effort to keep as much of the core unit together. The same could be said about Johnson, who took a restructured deal during the offseason last year as well.

The Panthers started this week making a number of calculated moves to keep their defensive core together. Even after a letdown in 2016, there’s value in bringing consistency into the next year. Franchising Short and re-signing Horton and Addison are two steps in the right direction. These moves allow the Panthers to focus on internal needs rather than having to find a big name free agent to fill a void.

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