The three big-bodied linemen who are the anchors of the Carolina Panthers 2013 NFL draft class are under contract.
The Panthers have signed their first three picks defensive tackles Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short, their first- and second-round selections, respectively, as well as fourth-rounder Edmund Kugbila, an offensive lineman from Division II Valdosta (Ga.) State.
The team announced the signing of Short on Wednesday, and is expected to make the Lotulelei and Kugbila deals official on Thursday.
The remaining unsigned rookies from the five-player draft class are fifth-rounder A.J. Klein, a linebacker from Iowa State, and sixth-round selection Kenjon Barner, a running back from Oregon.
Shorts four-year contract is worth $4.63 million and includes a $1.75 million signing bonus, according to a league source. Terms of the deals for Lotulelei and Kugbila have not been disclosed.
The Panthers became the fifth team since 1991 to use its first two picks on defensive tackles, and the first to do so since Tampa Bay took Gerald McCoy and Brian Price in 2010.
Lotulelei, the former Utah standout who was the 14th overall pick, was a top-3 prospect before being diagnosed with a heart issue at the combine in February. A University of Utah cardiologist cleared Lotulelei in March, but the initial diagnosis seemed to scare a few teams off.
Short, the 44th overall pick, started 50 consecutive games at Purdue, finishing with 19.5 sacks, 49 tackles for loss and a school-record eight blocked kicks.
We are very pleased to have Kawann under contract, Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman said in a release. We felt he was the best pass-rushing defensive tackle in the draft, and we are excited about what he can bring to our defensive front.
Lotulelei and Short are expected to be part of an interior rotation that also includes veteran Dwan Edwards, who re-signed with the Panthers after finishing with a career-high six sacks in 2012.
At the Panthers rookie minicamp this month, Short and Lotulelei said defensive line coach Eric Washington encouraged them to hang out together off the field to build a rapport.
Kugbila was born in Ghana before moving to Georgia with his family when he was 10. He drew interest from Alabama, Georgia, Vanderbilt and Florida but did not qualify academically.
Kugbila, who weighed 400 pounds as a freshman at Valdosta State, was a Division II All-American as a 317-pound senior when he helped lead the school to a national championship.
Panthers claim linebacker: Carolina claimed linebacker Ryan Rau off waivers from Cleveland. Rau, an undrafted free agent in 2012, spent the majority of last season on Philadelphias practice squad.
Rau went to the same school Portland State as Panthers backup linebacker and special teams captain Jordan Senn. Rau is the schools all-time leader in games played, with 43.
To make room for Rau on the roster, the Panthers waived-injured tight end Logan Brock. He was one of nine tryout players to sign with Carolina after the rookie camp.
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