Carolina Panthers

Source: All-Pro DT Gerald McCoy to sign 1-year deal with Panthers over Browns, Ravens

Here’s what Ron Rivera thinks about Panthers progress through OTAs

Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera discusses the team's progress as OTAs wind down into the 2019 NFL season.
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Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera discusses the team's progress as OTAs wind down into the 2019 NFL season.

The Carolina Panthers may have lost two former Pro Bowlers on defense from last season’s roster, but they just agreed to one of the offseason’s most-notable deals.

Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, 31, will sign a one-year deal with the Panthers, a league source confirmed to the Observer on Monday, reportedly worth at least $8.5 million. The decision comes after McCoy visited the Panthers, the Baltimore Ravens and the Cleveland Browns after the Bucs released him on May 20.

News of the deal was first reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

McCoy, a six-time Pro Bowler, gives head coach Ron Rivera and defensive coordinator Eric Washington five defensive players with at least one Pro Bowl selection under their belt. Before news of the deal broke, Rivera spoke briefly about McCoy’s visit.

“I thought it was received very well,” Rivera said after practice Monday. “Gerald is a solid football player and a guy we most certainly are interested in and would love to have here and be part of what we’re doing. He’s going through the process, so we’re just waiting patiently to see what the outcome is going to be.”

A first-team All-Pro selection in 2013, McCoy has been one of the NFL’s most consistent interior defensive linemen since the Buccaneers took him third overall out of Oklahoma in the 2010 draft. His 54.5 career sacks and 79 tackles for a loss both rank fifth in the league since 2010.

Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (93) is set to sign with the Carolina Panthers, a league source confirmed to The Charlotte Observer on Monday. Phelan Ebenhack AP file photo

Carolina cleared out nearly $9 million in cap space over the past week after Matt Kalil’s post-June 1 release took effect and wide receiver Torrey Smith agreed to restructure his contract.

“Carolina was a great fit for me. Being around the guys we just meshed & I love the instant chemistry we had,” McCoy said in a text to ESPN’s Josina Anderson. “They hv a tradition of having a great defense. I love the players & I believe in #1. Rivera is a proven coach & can’t wait to get started.”

The Panthers are already strong at defensive tackle with Pro Bowlers Kawann Short and Dontari Poe on the roster. In theory, all three could be on the field at the same time when the team rolls out the 3-4 defensive scheme it’s installing this offseason — Short and McCoy as three-technique down lineman and Poe as a nose tackle.

The Panthers were the NFL’s 12th-best defense against the run in 2018, just the second time since 2014 they finished outside the top 10 in that category. They also recorded the sixth-fewest sacks in the league last season, their lowest ranking since 2001.

Unlike the Browns, who added Pro Bowlers Olivier Vernon and Sheldon Richardson to their defense this offseason, and the Ravens, who made the playoffs in 2018, the Panthers offered McCoy an opportunity to remain in the NFC South — and a crack at the team that released him and allowed his replacement to wear his old number. The Buccaneers signed Ndamukong Suh shortly after releasing McCoy, and announced Suh would wear McCoy’s No. 93 this season.

Carolina hosts Tampa Bay in a prime-time “Thursday Night Football” matchup in Week 2.

The teams also play each other at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London in Week 6.

The Panthers sought to improve their speed on defense this offseason, which led to the release of cornerback Captain Munnerlyn and their decision not to retain linebacker Thomas Davis and free safety Mike Adams. The perceived defensive retooling was helped along when franchise sack leader Julius Peppers announced his retirement in January.

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Both Peppers and Davis made multiple Pro Bowl teams. Davis is now with the Los Angeles Chargers.

In Davis’ and Peppers’ stead, Carolina signed veteran hybrid linebacker Bruce Irvin in free agency before taking Brian Burns and Christian Miller in the 2019 NFL draft.