With NFL Free Agency well underway, it seems fitting to investigate the depths of the Carolina Panthers history. By looking at the team’s history, we will determine the all-time best Panthers free agency signings. This list won’t include anyone who was selected in the expansion draft. This list is based on the overall impact the player had on the franchise while receiving a paycheck from them.
All-Time Top Panthers Free Agency Signings
Sam Mills, LB
After amassing 934 total tackles, 10.5 sacks and four interceptions with the New Orleans Saints, Sam Mills signed on with this new team in Charlotte. In just three seasons, he recorded seven interceptions and 10 sacks. After retiring in 1997, Mills started to impact the roster when he spent a year as a coaching assistant before becoming the linebackers coach in 1999. As the linebackers coach, he helped guide those starters to an average of six sacks and 231 tackles per season. But it was his fight with intestinal cancer during the 2003 season that inspired the “Keep Pounding” moniker. As of this writing, he is still the only Panther to have his jersey retired.
Wesley Walls, TE
Wesley Walls set the gold standard of the tight end position before Greg Olsen. After a lackluster first seven seasons, Wells signed with the Panthers in the 1996 offseason to prove his worth. This paid off, as he set all the tight end records for the franchise and help guide them to the NFC Championship game his first season.
Jake Delhomme, QB
The draft brought the Panthers their first franchise start at the quarterback position. But, a little known backup made the future look bright. Jake Delhomme was signed to be the future and backup incumbent Rodney Peete. The future came sooner than the team expected, as they opened the 2003 season trailing the Jacksonville Jaguars, 17-0, at halftime. So, then-coach John Fox inserted Delhomme into the game, and he lead the team to a comeback victory. By the end of his tenure after the 2009 season, he held every notable team passing record.
Lamar Lathon and Kevin Greene, LBs
The defense, including Mills, had several major free agent acquisitions during its first few years. Joining Mills on the Panthers roster was Lamar Lathon, who left the team placing second on the franchise sack list, with 23.5. The player above him was Pittsburgh linebacker legend Kevin Greene, who racked up 41.5 sacks in three seasons in Charlotte. Those two were important fixtures of the Houston Oilers and Pittsburgh Steelers defenses, respectfully.
John Kasay, K
Finally, the special teams unit has been one of the most stable in the league. From its first season until 2010, the kicking duties were handled by former Seattle Seahawk John Kasay. He cashed in on his career-high 1994 season, where he converted 83.3% of his field goals, to lend his kicking talents to the Panthers. His 1996 season set the standard for kickers by going 37-for-45 and kicking 34 extra points. That record stayed intact until 2015, when Graham Gano scored one more point that season. Kasay still holds the record for most points as a Panther, with 1,482.
Although the history of NFL franchises began with the draft, the advent of free agency gave the Carolina Panthers a leg up on the competition.