Carolina Panthers backup tight end Ed Dickson was at Bank of America Stadium to sign his new contract Thursday morning when he bumped into Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsen and reserve Brandon Williams working out.
With Dickson signing a three-year deal that matched the length of the contract extension Olsen received last week and Williams under contract another season, Dickson applauded the Panthers for keeping the band together.
“We feel like we have one of the best groups in the NFL,” Dickson said in a conference call Thursday. “We feel like that every year. We just don’t talk about it. We (are) about it every single day in practice and OTAs, and we’re trying to get better.
“I walked through the building today and I saw my two guys in there working out and it makes me feel like I’m behind. So I’ve got to get to work.”
Dickson’s three-year deal is worth $7.9 million, a league source said.
Dickson, 27, who was an unrestricted free agent, said he heard from several teams, including Denver, Oakland, Cleveland and Arizona. He said Miami also viewed him as an option if the Dolphins lost Charles Clay, who was given the transition tag.
But Dickson was smitten.
“I don’t think any team even came close to the Panthers because when a team wins over your heart like the Panthers, it’s hard to walk away from home,” he said. “I knew exactly where I wanted to be. I gave it the green light: Get me home. Tell the Panthers to bring me home.”
After four years in Baltimore, Dickson signed for the veteran’s minimum last year to be a receiving complement to Olsen, who posted the two most prolific receiving seasons by a Panthers tight end the past two seasons.
But Dickson was forced to play fullback for about two months after injuries to Mike Tolbert and Richie Brockel. He finished the season with 10 receptions for 115 yards – both career lows.
But Dickson was productive down the stretch, catching a touchdown in the division-clinching win at Atlanta and pulling in three passes for 67 yards in the two playoff games.
Dickson said he needed no assurances from general manager Dave Gettleman or coach Ron Rivera that he would be targeted more in 2015.
“I’m going to continue to get open, and they’re going to see that,” Dickson said. “I’m not going to go in there and say, do this and do that.”
Dickson said he “did a whole lot of things behind the scenes” during a 2014 season he called “very unique” because of the adversity the Panthers faced on and off the field.
“We had our ups and downs like a normal season,” Dickson said. “But things that happened like our quarterback being in a car accident, the head coach’s house almost burning down, those are things that don’t happen every season. I’m proud of those guys for staying on course.”
Dickson signed his deal Thursday, but it was done Tuesday. He was one of several players Gettleman locked up before the start to free agency Tuesday afternoon.
In addition to extending Olsen, the Panthers also re-signed defensive tackles Colin Cole and Dwan Edwards and running back Fozzy Whittaker and brought in returner/receiver Ted Ginn Jr. and left tackle Michael Oher.
“They believe in keeping their own, keeping it in-house, and they believe in the guys that battled for them last year,” Dickson said.
“When you start something you want to see it finished. That’s one thing that drove me to come back this year. We started a great thing last year. We got to the second round of the playoffs. I feel like we can get to the top of the mountain.”
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Special teams signing
The Panthers weren’t joking about getting faster.
Carolina signed special teamer Teddy Williams to a two-year deal Thursday, bringing in the former sprinter to be one of the gunners on a special teams unit that struggled throughout the 2014 season.
Williams fits Carolina’s stated desire to get faster in all phases of the team. In college at Texas-San Antonio, Williams ran the 100 meters in 9.90 seconds. He didn’t play football in college and signed with the Cowboys for his speed after going undrafted in 2010.
Along with the Cowboys, Williams has been with the Colts, Cardinals, Bears and Jaguars. In Week 5 of the 2014 season, Williams was too fast on a punt and hit Panthers returner Philly Brown early. Brown collected himself, then collected the ball and returned the punt 79 yards for a touchdown.
Williams played receiver and cornerback in the NFL, and he’ll most likely be labeled as a cornerback with the Panthers. But his primary, and probably exclusive, role with the team will be on special teams.
The deal is worth up to $2.3 million, according to a league source. Williams is set to make $900,000 in the first year.
Carolina finished at or near the bottom in six special teams categories last season. The Panthers were last in the league in punt return yardage allowed and next-to-last in kickoff return yardage allowed.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera reassigned special teams coordinator Richard Rodgers to defense and promoted assistant Bruce DeHaven last month. Jonathan Jones