CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The Carolina Panthers added help at safety and found an anchor for the middle of their defensive line on the first day that NFL teams were allowed to negotiate with free agents from other organizations.
The Panthers have agreed to terms on contracts with safety Vonn Bell and defensive tackle Shy Tuttle, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press on Monday. The person spoke to The AP on condition of anonymity because the deals won’t be made official until Wednesday, when the NFL’s new year starts.
The Panthers lost veteran quarterback Sam Darnold to the San Francisco 49ers, but were able to re-sign Bradley Bozeman, a standout at center last season, to a three-year deal. Carolina was not expected to re-sign Darnold after agreeing to a trade on Friday with the Chicago Bears for the No. 1 pick in the draft, which the team plans to use on a quarterback.
ESPN reported that Tuttle’s deal was worth $19.5 million over three years and includes $13 million in guaranteed money, citing agent Drew Rosenhaus. No details have been released on Bell's contract.
Both Bell and Tuttle are expected to be starters for the Panthers, who are switching to a 3-4 defensive scheme.
Bell has started 93 games and played in 109 over his seven-year NFL career, including 48 starts in the last three season for the Cincinnati Bengals. He played his first four seasons with the New Orleans Saints. The 28-year-old Bell has 636 career tackles with 15 forced fumbles and six interceptions since coming into the league as a second-round draft pick in 2016 out of Ohio State.
The 6-foot-3, 300-pound Tuttle is expected to play nose tackle in Carolina’s new base defensive front under defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero, with Derrick Brown moving to defensive end. The Midway, North Carolina, native started 33 games during his four seasons with the Saints, including 29 in the past two seasons. The 27-year-old Tuttle has 143 career tackles with one interception and one fumble recovery.
The Panthers announced Monday they have placed a one-year tender on restricted free agent safety Sam Franklin that would pay him $2.627 million in 2023. Franklin has the option to sign an offer sheet with another team, but the Panthers would have the opportunity to match.
Darnold was a combined 8-9 as a starter in two seasons with the Panthers, throwing 16 touchdown passes and 16 interceptions. Bozeman started the final 11 games last season, which coincided with the team's improvement in the running game.
The Panthers went 7-10 last season.
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