Carolina Panthers

Carolina Panthers, Kony Ealy sign rookie deal

The Carolina Panthers have signed former Missouri defensive end and second-round pick Kony Ealy, the team announced Thursday.

Terms of Ealy’s four-year deal were not disclosed. Atlanta Falcons cornerback Robert Alford received a four-year, $3.4 million deal last year as the 60th overall pick, which was where the Panthers took Ealy this year.

The Panthers have agreed to deals with four of their six draft picks. First-round pick Kelvin Benjamin, the former Florida State wide receiver, and guard Trai Turner, the third-rounder from LSU, remain unsigned.

Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman said he assigned a first-round grade to Ealy, who was an All-SEC selection last season after finishing with 9.5 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss.

Ealy was overshadowed by Missouri defensive end Michael Sam, the SEC’s Co-Defensive Player of the Year who became the first openly gay player to be drafted when St. Louis took him in the seventh round.

But Ealy is expected to make an early impact with the Panthers.

Defensive end Greg Hardy has pending criminal charges following an altercation with his ex-girlfriend, while backup defensive end Frank Alexander is suspended the first four games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.

Ealy might have a bigger role in 2015, when Hardy could be a free agent and defensive end Charles Johnson is scheduled to count $17.4 million against the salary cap.

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