There was a time, about a half-decade ago, when the Carolina Panthers’ returning sack leader was not exactly well-known.
Defensive end Mario Addison had been stashed away on Washington’s practice squad and was a former undrafted free agent from Troy, a small school in Alabama that only became a Division I-A member of the FBS in 2001.
Not very many people outside of Alabama were watching Addison at first, but former Carolina Panthers assistant general manager Brandon Beane certainly was.
When Beane got the chance to sign Addison off of Washington’s practice squad in 2012, he took it.
Now the general manager for the Buffalo Bills (the team the Panthers play this weekend in their home opener), Beane had been through about a decade of drafts and free agency periods with Carolina and had gone on the road scouting since 2012. And he said this week that signing the 6-foot-3, 260-pound Addison was the best move he made for the Panthers.
“I saw a skillset that could work in this league,” said Beane this week.
By the time he was picked up in Carolina, Addison was 25 years old.
The Panthers took their time in developing Addison. In 2013, he played mostly on special teams. In 2014, he got more opportunities on defense and recorded 6.5 sacks, which he followed with six in 2015.
Not many players have their breakout year as late as age 29, when Addison, used largely in passing situations, amassed a team-high 9.5 sacks and earned a three-year, $22.5 million contract extension last spring.
Now at 30, Addison will start and stay on the field longer.
“He made his mark on special teams and as a situational pass rusher,” Beane said. “Then he became a force as a pass rusher. You see a young man mature on and off the field, who is a pro’s pro and everything you want in the locker room. Guys really respect him.”