Looking to add depth at offensive tackle, the Carolina Panthers claimed offensive lineman Jonathan Martin, the victim in the Miami Dolphins’ bullying scandal two years ago.
The Panthers were awarded Martin on waivers from San Francisco on Friday after he appeared in 15 games last season with the 49ers, including nine starts at right tackle.
Carolina will pay Martin $1 million for the last year remaining on his contract with San Francisco.
It represents a low-risk addition for a team that will start its third left tackle in as many seasons following Jordan Gross’ retirement in 2014 and Byron Bell’s departure via free agency this year.
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In a text message to the Observer, Panthers coach Ron Rivera acknowledged Martin’s situation in Miami but said he’s more interested in how Martin can help the offensive line.
“I think he is a good player who can help us. He is young, athletic and smart,” Rivera said. “I know of the situation he went through, but that doesn’t affect how I see him.”
Martin, 25, was Miami’s second-round draft pick in 2012 and started 16 games as a rookie.
But he left the team in October 2013 after persistent bullying by former teammate Richie Incognito and two others Dolphins’ offensive linemen – John Jerry and Mike Pouncey.
In his 144-page report to the league, investigator Ted Wells found Martin was subjected to a pattern of harassment that included sexually explicit remarks about female family members and racial insults.
Martin, 6-foot-5 and 315 pounds, told investigators he dealt with bullying in high school and considered suicide in 2013 when he was being harassed by Incognito in Miami.
Martin is the second victim in the bullying scandal to play for the Panthers. Offensive lineman Andrew McDonald, who was identified as “Player A” in the Wells’ report, spent parts of two seasons with Carolina before Seattle picked him up off the Panthers’ practice squad last year.
During an NFL panel discussion in the wake of the bullying situation in Miami, Rivera loudly called for coaches to be more visible in the locker room. Rivera said there were issues in the Panthers’ locker room during his first two years in Charlotte that he didn’t know about, according to a USA Today article about the panel discussion.
After Martin sat out the last half of the 2013 season, Miami traded him to San Francisco for a conditional, seventh-round draft pick last offseason.
Pro Football Focus ranked Martin 60th among 84 offensive tackles last season. But he was rated higher than Bell, Panthers right tackle Nate Chandler and Michael Oher, the “Blind Side” tackle Carolina signed to a two-year deal this month to take over for Bell.
Oher and right tackle Mike Remmers are expected to begin training camp as the starters, with Chandler, Martin and possibly a drafted player competing behind them.
“Our goal is to build the strongest roster possible and add competition at every position,” general manager Dave Gettleman said in a release. “Jonathan brings quality experience to our offensive line, having started 32 games in his career at both tackle spots.”
Panthers center Ryan Kalil told the Observer in a text message he’s looking forward to meeting Martin.
“I’m excited about the competition evolving in our room,” Kalil said. “Can’t wait to see who’s going to help us become a better offense.”
After San Francisco waived him Thursday, Martin tweeted: “Enjoyed my time with the @49ers, lucky & blessed to have been a part of a great organization. On to the next one.”
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