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With less than two weeks to go before the 2021 NFL draft, the Carolina Panthers are preparing to fill one of the biggest remaining needs on the roster.
Former Tennessee Titans defensive tackle DaQuan Jones has agreed to terms with the team on a one-year deal.
Jones, 29, is 6-foot-4, 322 pounds and was initially drafted by the Titans in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL draft out of Penn State. He has spent his entire career with the Titans, including the last six years as a starter. Jones has played as a 3-4 defensive end and also more of an interior role over the last couple of seasons. His versatility continues a trend of the Panthers adding players who can fill more than one role if needed.
Known for his run defense more than his pass rush, Jones has started all 16 games five times, including in each of the last three seasons. His ability to stay healthy is a major upside. He is coming off a career-high 49 tackles and six quarterback hits last season.
Other available options at the defensive tackle position on the market include former Cleveland Brown Sheldon Richardson and former Panther Kawann Short. Both are already over the age of 30. Richardson’s price tag is likely higher than what Jones will be given and Short has dealt with two season-ending shoulder injuries in the last two years.
The Panthers will still look to address the position in the draft, with a three-technique defensive tackle still a need on the roster following the departures of Short and veteran Zach Kerr. Depth has been added to the defensive line throughout the offseason, but another long-term solution is still missing from the interior of the line, especially with the team focusing on building through the offensive and defensive lines.
Adding Jones, however, is another example of the team continuing a trend that general manager Scott Fitterer shared the team would be following earlier in the offseason. The goal has been to fill holes at open positions prior to the NFL draft.
“We want to go into the draft without a lot of needs,” Fitterer said. “If we can fill a need in free agency, go into the draft and just pick the best available player, that would be ideal for how we how we go about this.”
Trading for Sam Darnold took care of some of the question mark at quarterback. Bringing in David Moore filled some of the hole left behind by wide receiver Curtis Samuel. Denzel Perryman took over the veteran linebacker spot after Tahir Whitehead’s one-year signing did not work out. The list goes on with the acquistions of starters and backups.
Heading into the draft, the Panthers will have more flexibility to pick whatever players they feel will help them the most based on their draft board without the pressure of needing a player at a certain position. While needs were filled, there are still plenty of big decisions to make in adding talent to the roster next week.