The Carolina Panthers made a big move Monday in the wake of a hamstring injury to defensive end Charles Johnson and a struggling pass rush, acquiring Jared Allen in a trade with Chicago.
The Panthers gave up a 2016 draft pick to acquire Allen, whose 134 career sacks are the most among active players and ninth all-time. That includes 22 in 2011, tied for the second-most in a season in NFL history.
Chicago will receive the Panthers’ sixth-round pick next year, according to reports. The deal is pending a physical, which Allen is expected to take Tuesday.
Allen was healthy in Chicago, but not happy with his role.
Allen, 33, has been to five Pro Bowls, most recently in 2012. But he was a poor fit as an outside linebacker in the 3-4 defense the Bears installed under first-year coach John Fox.
Allen had five tackles and no sacks through the first three games. He played in 57 percent of the defensive snaps, recording three quarterback hits and an interception.
Ken Harris, Allen’s agent, encouraged Allen to speak with Bears general manager Ryan Pace on Monday morning. After the meeting, Pace gave Harris permission to reach out to teams about a trade.
Harris said he called a handful of teams, but contacted the Panthers first. Harris said it’s a mutually beneficial trade for all involved, including Allen.
“He’s a 4-3, high-motor, voracious type defensive end. That’s what he is. And that’s not (the scheme) he’s been in,” Harris said. “That’s nobody’s fault.”
Former Carolina offensive lineman Jordan Gross said he was glad to see the undefeated Panthers make a move to help them win now.
“A lot of people have criticized this organization for a long time, saying we never do anything like this,” Gross said. “So it’s exciting.”
Panthers coach Ron Rivera said general manager Dave Gettleman and assistant GM Brandon Beane told him Monday morning they had a chance to get Allen.
“Some things came up in conversation and the opportunity was there,” Rivera said on his weekly radio show Monday evening. “From that point on they went to work and some things fell into place nicely.”
Allen was a right defensive end his entire career before this season. That included his six seasons in Minnesota, where he had 85.5 sacks before signing a four-year, $32 million deal with Chicago in 2014.
The Panthers will absorb $823,529 of Allen’s $1 million base salary this year. The Bears paid Allen a roster bonus of $11.5 million in March.
Allen’s contract includes a non-guaranteed salary of $8.5 million in 2016 and automatically voids before the 2017 season.
That represents a low-cost move for a Panthers team in need of pass-rushing help. The Panthers have just one sack by a defensive lineman in the past 98 drop-backs by opposing quarterbacks.
“He’s a pass rushing specialist. That’s what he does,” Rivera said of Allen. “He plays the run well. He’s got good size, great hands, good rushing violence. He doesn’t sit there and work one way or the other. He has counter moves. We watched a lot of tape on him (Monday), just wanted to make sure this could be a fit for us.”
Rivera said Johnson’s injury played a role in the Panthers making the deal.
Johnson aggravated a right hamstring injury Sunday against the Saints, and Rivera indicated Johnson would be out multiple weeks.
Rivera said the Panthers are awaiting the results of an MRI exam on Johnson’s hamstring.
Johnson, who has a $20 million salary cap number this year, has one sack through the first three games.
Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott’s scheme is predicated on getting a consistent pass rush from the front four.
The Panthers had five sacks in a Week 1 win at Jacksonville, but only one each of the past two games, against Houston and New Orleans. Rookie linebacker Shaq Thompson had the lone sack against the Saints.
The Panthers’ pass rush has been in decline since 2013, when they led the league and tied a franchise record with 60 sacks.
But they were without edge rusher Greg Hardy for the final 15 games of 2014 after he went on the commissioner’s exempt list after a misdemeanor domestic violence arrest in Charlotte. Carolina’s sack total dropped to 40 last season with Hardy sidelined.
The Panthers chose not to re-sign Hardy, who went to Dallas a free agent during the offseason.
Rivera hoped someone would emerge to take Hardy’s spot on the right side. But one of the candidates was lost in the preseason when Frank Alexander ruptured his achilles.
Second-year defensive end Kony Ealy, who won the starting spot opposite Johnson, has yet to record a sack.
Harris, Allen’s agent, is confident Allen can help jump-start the pass rush.
“He’s a pin-your-ears-back-go-get-the-quarterback defensive end,” Harris said. “He’s built his career on being a 4-3 terror.”
Jonathan Jones contributed.