With the release of the team’s all-time leading rusher coming any day, the Panthers locked up their No. 2 tailback with a two-year deal Monday.
Carolina signed running back Fozzy Whittaker to a deal worth $1.36 million after a 2014 season when he emerged late filling in for an injured DeAngelo Williams, who has been told the Panthers will release him.
Whittaker was one of four exclusive rights free agents who signed with the Panthers. Receiver Brenton Bersin, linebacker Ben Jacobs and offensive lineman Brian Folkerts each received one-year contracts.
Whittaker rushed 32 times for 145 yards and one touchdown last season while battling a quadriceps injury. He also caught a 39-yard touchdown pass in the playoff win against Arizona.
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He also was the team’s primary kick returner later in the season. Whittaker averaged 23.8 yards on 11 returns.
Bersin caught 13 passes on 20 targets for 151 yards and one touchdown last season. His primary role going into camp will be at receiver after a pedestrian tenure as the team’s punt returner as well as the team bringing back receiver/returner Ted Ginn Jr.
Bersin returned 14 punts last season for just 86 yards. In the home playoff win against the Cardinals, Bersin muffed a punt in the first quarter that extended Arizona’s drive. He would go on to call fair catch on the next nine punts in the postseason.
The Panthers coaches like Bersin’s route running and hands, and he has had a strong on-field connection with quarterback Cam Newton since he was a practice squad player in 2013.
Jacobs primarily will play on special teams while being a reserve linebacker. Folkerts is the immediate backup to center Ryan Kalil.
Carolina did not make an offer to offensive tackle Kevin Hughes – the team’s only other exclusive rights free agent – and he will be free to sign with another team Tuesday.
Jones: 704-358-5323; Twitter: @jjones9