Carolina Panthers get two vital players back in free agency.
Free agency is an important time of the year for teams to boloster their rosters and hopefully find the proverbial missing pieces. The Carolina Panthers are doing the same but instead of looking outward, they looked inward to resign two impact players that were central to both the offensive and defensive units. The resiging of Charles Johnson and Mike Tolbert speaks to the team culture that has been fostered in recent seasons. It also plays a key role in the success that this franchise has experienced in the past few years.
David Newton of ESPN reported that both Tolbert and Johnson resigned with the Panthers on Wednesday. According to Newton’s report, both players opted to take less money and return to a Carolina team that went 15-1 before falling to the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl.
“I left a little on the table to be able to come back here and be with my family,” Tolbert said in Newton’s report. “That’s the one thing I wanted to do, maintain some kind of camraderie.”
Johnson had a similar comment in a statement released today.
“My heart was in Carolina,” Johnson said. “I feel like I would have been waiting all that work had I gone somewhere else for some dollars. I’d rather be happy doing what I’m doing around people that I know, and I’m comfortable with. I can’t wait to go back to work.”
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Both of these signings are important moves to help solidify an offense and defense that were league leaders throughout 2015. Even more so, this speaks to the Panthers truly embracing a culture that allows them to focus on the field instead of everything else that comes with being a professional athlete in today’s world of the 24-hour news cycle.
It’s rare that teams go through an entire year without some sort of major controversy. This season the Panthers’ biggest “controversy” surrounded Cam Newton but the interesting fact is that he actually didn’t do anything wrong. Instead of being caught up in trival moments, the team focused on playing together and rallying around the opportunity to create history. Even though they fell short on the big stage, the fact that they were able to reach it in such spectacular fashion speaks volumes to this team as a whole.
Both of these players are key pieces on both sides of the ball. Tolbert has been a long-standing member of the Panthers rushing attack. Bringing him back keeps that unit intact along with Newton, Jonathan Stewart and the still developing Cameron Artis-Payne. As the Panthers continue to try move towards relieving Newton from running first, bringing Tolbert back to the fold pushes them in the right direction.
A healthy Johnson is a dangerous threat to opposing defenses. Since being drafted by the Panthers back in 2007, he’s grew into the team’s premiere pass rusher. Kwann Short is challenging him for that spot and putting them on the field at the same time will certainly cause havoc throughout the year. Injuries plagued Johnson throughout the year but he was able to retun late within the campaign. He has a lot to contribute to a team and bringing him back to this defensive line strengthens one of the Panthers’ central attributes.
As free agency continues to linger on, it will be interesting to see how teams are able to bring back important players. Charles Johnson and Mike Tolbert’s willingness to take less money to come back to Carolina speaks volumes to their commitment to the team, personalities and the organization as a whole.