CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The Carolina Panthers entered the offseason looking to improve their quarterbacks, but free agency began Wednesday with some quarterback pressure.

The pressure is so great that former Arizona edge rusher Haason Reddick, who had 12.5 sacks last season, signed a one-year, $8 million contract and former Los Angeles Rams defensive lineman Morgan Fox, who had six sacks last season, signed a two-year, $8.1 million contract.

In 2020, their 18.5 combined sacks are 10.5 less than the entire Panthers defense. Only eight teams had fewer than Carolina’s 29 kills, and among playoff teams, only Tennessee.

That’s not to say Phil Snow’s Defensive Player’s Cup is overflowing with playmakers, but it’s a lot closer to full than it used to be.

Haason Reddick should give the Panthers, who are 27th in quarterback pressures in 2020, a boost. AP Photo/Bill Costrone

Last season, the Panthers ranked 27th with 155 quarterback pressures and 23rd with 26%. And, as Snow noted last season, pressure correlates with winning in the NFL.

Seven of the top 11 teams in terms of pressure percentage made the playoffs in 2020, including the top three (Pittsburgh 36.7, Kansas City 35.0 and New Orleans 34.4). Conversely, the four teams with the lowest pressure percentage (Detroit 21.0, Cincinnati 22.6, Jacksonville 22.7 and Houston 23.2) had losses by double digits, according to statistics and information from ESPN.

The addition of Reddick, Fox and free agent Denzel Perryman at middle linebacker, which already includes 2020 sack leader Brian Burns and 2020 NFL Rookie of the Year Jeremy Chinn, 2020 first-round pick Derrick Brown and 2020 second-round pick Yetur Gross-Matos, should give Snow the talent and positional flexibility to throw just about any scheme he wants at opponents.

Reddick can play outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme, end or outside linebacker in a 4-3 scheme, as can Burns, who accounted for 32% of Carolina’s press last season (49). He ranks third in the NFL behind Aaron Donald (54) and Shaquille Barrett (53).

Morgan can push from the end or from the offense. Chinn can play outside linebacker or safety in any scheme, although he had to play more linebacker last season out of necessity. The goal this year is for Chinn to play more confidently and move up the ranks.

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Jeremy and Brian Burns give us flexibility and allow us to play with the same people on the field, Snow said.

The addition of a free agent increases that flexibility, including Reddick, who has reunited with Snow and head coach Matt Rhul since their time at Temple (2013-16). A one-year contract that proves he has a chance to make a name for himself here as a college star.

I love Hasson, Rhule said on an Arizona radio station in 2017 after Reddick was selected 13th overall by the Cardinals. He’s everything college football needs. He’s tough, he’s tough. … He’s ruthless.

In an era where defenders don’t run the ball anymore because of the constant pace and guys don’t always play hard, Hason set the standard for our defense.

And remember, it was that flexibility that allowed Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers to sit out a game last season.

Rodgers was not happy with Carolina’s 3-5-3 scheme and the academic principles behind it after he was tackled five times and held to less than 143 yards on the season in a 24-16 victory.

Snow did it with a unit that was poor in starters and playmakers due to injuries and inexperience.

After a slow start, Snow found ways to better utilize what he had. A defense that averaged 8.8 pressures and 1.1 sacks per game in its first 10 games is now averaging 11.2 pressures and 3 sacks per game in its first six games.

It didn’t lead to any big wins, in part because starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was under a lot of pressure and became inconsistent with mistakes and decisions.

Therefore, the Panthers offered Bridgewater, the No. 8 pick and a fifth-round pick for free agency to get Matthew Stafford from Detroit. Stafford went to the Rams, but trading him for a quarterback or draft pick remains a viable option.

Where else can the Panthers be secured? The cornerback who should play opposite Donte Jackson remains a major need on defense due to his lack of experience. Carolina had journeyman Rasul Douglas test the market, and two players – Troy Pride Jr. and Stanley Thomas-Oliver III – were selected last year, with the projects remaining projects.

The Panthers, who have shown interest in other high-profile corners like Seattle’s Shaquille Griffin, signed 10-year veteran Rashaan Melvin to a one-year contract Thursday. It’s a stopgap, at best.

Ideally it would be a guy in his 20s with some experience, but the market has collapsed to the point where there aren’t many left. Former Tennessee cornerback Adoree Jackson, 18th pick. 2017 draft pick, best fit. He started 41 games and is 26, but knee problems limited him to three games and two in 2020.

So the Panthers will continue to look there, just as they will look for the quarterback.

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