It’s wild that Haason Reddick, Carolina’s most productive defensive player in 2021, may not be a top priority in free agency. General Manager Scott Fitterer’s remarks that Carolina “needs to be more physical on the edges,” however, suggests Reddick isn’t a top offseason priority. In a WFNZ radio interview, Fitterer emphasized that the Panthers need “to get that defensive end, that 5-technique, that 285 lbs guy on the edge that can play physical” and stand up against the run late in games.
Reddick signed a 1-year prove-it deal in Carolina after Arizona let him walk following a 12.5 sack season. Reddick’s 11.5 sacks in Carolina proved he is an elite NFL pass-rusher, but at just 235 pounds, his size makes him that tweener linebacker who is best suited at rushing the passer. He’s elite at one facet of the ball but seems to be scheme-dependent in playing a defensive role in defending both the run and the pass. It’s a puzzle that warrants finding a way to keep him on the field but may not warrant paying him what he ultimately deserves. Brian Burns, another undersized speed-rush specialist, also complicates the issue. Reddick and Burns made a productive duo when Carolina had the lead and opposing offenses were in passing situations. Together, however, they struggled when teams committed to the run or found early leads that allowed for balanced offensive game plans.
Carolina doesn’t have a ton of salary cap money to blow, and they have many problems to solve. Signing Cam Newton and trading for Stephon Gilmore ate into what would have been 17 million in rollover money, leaving about 28 million for Fitterer to work with. He’s stated that upgrading both sides of the line is imperative and that linebacker and safety are also needs. Reddick isn’t likely to be looking to cut Carolina another break after earning only 6 million in 2021. The Panthers could franchise tag Reddick, avoiding having to negotiate a long-term deal, but that wouldn’t be cheap at 18 million dollars.
Reddick again enters an offseason as a tweener. A guy who was so productive for the previous season doesn’t see him as an offseason priority between the next team that believes he can help manufacture a better pass-rush. Unfortunately, Reddick’s greatest ally, Matt Rhule, is losing influence steadily, and it appears that Scott Fitterer may be positioning for a future without either of them.
By Tony Dunn
Follow @Cat_Chronicles for the latest Panthers news and opinions from the fan perspective.