The “Edwards Boys” – the Panthers’ so-called defensive tackle tandem – might be breaking up.
But at least on half of the productive duo could be coming back to Charlotte.
Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman and coach Ron Rivera indicated last week at the combine they hoped to re-sign defensive tackle Dwan Edwards.
The feeling apparently is mutual.
Edwards, who had a breakout season with the Panthers in 2012 after Buffalo cut him, is one of the top priorities among Carolina’s own free agents. He said Thursday he hopes to return.
“I definitely would come back there. A great bunch of guys,” Edwards said in a phone interview. “It was fun. Coming in and not knowing the team, I wasn’t really sure how it was going to be and what my expectations were. I hadn’t heard great things about the defensive line.
“But throughout the season I could see us getting better and improving. And I really felt we won some games for us.”
Edwards teamed with nose tackle Ron Edwards on the inside, while defensive ends Charles Johnson (12.5 sacks) and Greg Hardy (11 sacks) were disruptive on the edge.
Ron Edwards is expected to be a salary cap casualty for a team that needs to trim about $9 million by March 12 to get under the reported $123 million cap.
The Panthers locked down Johnson two years ago with the richest contract in franchise history, and are expected to make a long-term offer to Hardy, who is entering the last year of his deal after a monster 2012 season.
That leaves Dwan Edwards, whose six sacks last season were the most by a Panthers defensive tackle since Kris Jenkins had seven in 2002. Only Detroit Pro-Bowler Ndamukong Suh, with eight, had more sacks among NFC defensive tackles.
Edwards, who turns 32 in May, signed a one-year deal worth $1.5 million last year after the Bills released him before the regular season. He thrived in the Panthers’ 4-3 defense after playing his first seven seasons as a defensive end in the 3-4 schemes run by Baltimore and Buffalo.
“Every experience prepares you for the next one,” Edwards said. “(Defensive tackle) is definitely a different mentality and allows you to make a lot more plays.”
Gettleman and Rivera indicated last week they would like to have Edwards back.
Frank Bauer, Edwards’ agent, said he spoke with Panthers officials at the combine.
“We have talked to them and they’ll get back. They have some cap issues that they have to take care of,” Bauer said. “They really like Dwan and they know he’s an important part of the team. We just have to wait and see.”
Despite missing two games late in the season with a wrist injury, Edwards had 56 tackles, eight quarterback pressures and three pass deflections. He said his wrist did not require surgery and he feels good physically.
“I feel great. I feel like I can play a long time. A relatively long time – not 10 years or nothing like that,” Edwards said. “But for the most part, I’ve been healthy my whole career and didn’t play a whole lot my first two years in Baltimore.
“Even though I’ll be 32, I feel like I have a lot of time left.”