The Carolina Panthers aren’t expected to bring in any newcomers Tuesday on the first day of free agency, but they’ve at least locked down several of their own players.
The Panthers re-signed tight end Ed Dickson hours before he would have become an unrestricted free agent at the 4 p.m. start of the league year. Dickson re-upped with Carolina with a three-year deal, according to a league source.
Earlier Tuesday, the Panthers locked down defensive tackle Dwan Edwards with a two-year deal, the team announced.
Terms were not disclosed.
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Dickson, 27, had a strong finish to his first season with the Panthers in 2014. After playing fullback for two months after a rash of injuries at the position, Dickson emerged as a reliable, receiving complement to Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsen over the final month.
Dickson had a touchdown catch in the division-clinching win at Atlanta in Week 17, and had a total of three receptions for 67 yards in the two playoff games against Arizona and Seattle.
Dickson, who spent his first four seasons in Baltimore, had drawn interest from several teams, including Cleveland.
The Panthers viewed Dickson and Edwards as priorities among their own free agents. Carolina has re-signed four of its 11 unrestricted free agents: Dickson, Edwards, defensive tackle Colin Cole and No. 3 quarterback Joe Webb.
They won’t be bringing back their most prolific free agent.
Pro Bowl defensive end Greg Hardy, embroiled in a domestic violence case, will become a free agent at 4 p.m. Tuesday and will not be re-signed. The NFL also could announce Hardy’s discipline Tuesday.
But the Panthers are keeping their interior intact.
Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short, the Panthers’ first- and second-round picks in 2013, represent the team’s future at the position. But Panthers coach Ron Rivera likes to employ an interior rotation, and Edwards and Cole have been a big part of it.
Edwards, who will turn 34 in May, had 39 tackles, four sacks and one interception last season, and played in all 16 regular-season games.
Edwards has been a mainstay on the line since joining the Panthers as a free agent in 2012.
“I wanted to finish what we started,” Edwards said in a release. “I got here three years ago and the defense has been improving, we’ve made a couple playoff appearances and I want to see it through.
“We’ve got a great chemistry on the defensive line, and despite some of the challenges that faced us last year, we continued to battle and young guys stepped up and (defensive line) coach (Eric) Washington did a great job. It was a great group to be a part of. From where we started to where we are now, I wanted to be a part of this.”