Free agency for the Panthers has been void of any big splashes, as has been the case throughout Dave Gettleman’s three-year tenure as general manager.
But Gettleman landed a big addition Monday.
Defensive tackle Paul Soliai, a 6-foot-4, 345-pounder entering his 10th season, has agreed to terms with the Panthers, his agent David Canter tweeted Monday night.
It’s a two-year deal worth $7 million, including $3 million guaranteed, according to a league source. Soliai, who spent the last two seasons with Atlanta, is expected to sign the contract Tuesday.
Soliai, 32, will join a defensive tackle rotation with starters Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short, both of whom are entering their fourth seasons and in line for substantial pay raises.
But the Panthers didn’t have anyone behind them on the depth chart this offseason after veteran Dwan Edwards was cut and Kyle Love became a free agent.
Soliai, a California native and former Utah standout, will surpass offensive lineman Chris Scott as the heaviest player on the Panthers’ roster.
Soliai, Miami’s fourth-round pick in 2007, will line up behind Lotulelei at nose tackle. He’s been a wide-bodied, run-stuffer throughout his career, with a total of only 5.5 sacks over his first nine seasons.
He was a Pro Bowler with the Dolphins in 2011 and went to Atlanta in 2014 on a five-year, $32 million contract. Soliai was set to make $5 million in 2016 and wouldn’t agree to a pay cut.
So the Falcons cut him last week with a June 1 designation, allowing them to spread the salary cap hit out over two years.
Soliai visited the Panthers over the weekend and the two sides were able to work out a deal Monday.
The Soliai signing won’t stop Gettleman from going after another defensive tackle, likely in a deep draft class at the position.
Gettleman uses free agency as a way to plug holes, allowing him to draft the best player available. Other than re-signing several of the team’s own free agents to cap-friendly deals, the Panthers’ lone acquisition before Soliai was backup offensive lineman Gino Gradkowski.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera was interested in bringing former San Diego safety Eric Weddle, although the front office wasn’t willing to make a major financial commitment to a 31-year-old who was considered one of the top remaining free agents.
Weddle agreed to a four-year deal with Baltimore on Monday worth $26 million.
With free agent defensive backs Charles Tillman and Roman Harper not expected to return, the Panthers could use another cornerback and safety.
But they filled their void at defensive tackle with the type of big body Gettleman collects.
“Have you ever seen a 330lb defensive tackle dab?” Canter, Soliai’s agent, tweeted Monday. “Well @Panthers fans get ready because BIG PAUL SOLIAI is officially a Panther!”
Staff writer Jonathan Jones contributed.