With NBA free agency in full swing this week – even though players can’t technically sign until tomorrow, the Hornets are already crossing their fingers for a winning lottery bounce – I thought it might be a fun time to take a look at some of the best free agent signings in Carolina Panthers’ history.

Throughout their existence, the Panthers haven’t dabbled a lot with signing players off the street, especially recently – of their 22 presumed starters, only six have been signed as free agents with the rest coming from the draft. In fact, the core of their NFC Championship teams in 2003 and 2015 were built through the draft as well – but every draft needs supplements through free agency.

During their existence, the Panthers have had their share of misses when it comes to free agency. However, they’ve also had some players that have been the foundation of their team throughout the years – let’s take a look at some of the most important.

Photo Credit: Nick Laham/Getty Images

Jake Delhomme

The signing of Delhomme is probably the most important in Panthers’ history. After taking over for Rodney Peete during the third quarter of the Panthers’ first game of the 2003 season, Delhomme helped the Panthers to an 11-5 record and an appearance in Super Bowl XXXVIII before the ‘Cardiac Cats’ would eventually fall to the New England Patriots.

Delhomme would go on to play in six more seasons for the Panthers before he was released in 2010 – from 2003 to 2008, he had a 49-30 record as a starter and the Ragin’ Cajun ranks second in franchise history to current QB Cam Newton in several statistical categories such as most passing yards (19,258) and passing touchdowns (120).

Photo Credit: Charlotte Observer File Photo

Sam Mills

Mills might have only played three seasons for the Panthers (1995-97), but his presence on the organization can still be seen today. After spending nine seasons with the Saints, Mills signed with the Panthers and became the leader of the expansion team after signing a two-year, $2.8m deal.

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Mills not only made a Pro Bowl appearance during his time in Carolina, but he also helped the Panthers reach the NFC Championship in just their second season, before losing to the Green Bay Packers. We all know Sam Mills’ story, but his impact on the Panthers will be felt for the remainder of their history.

Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

John Kasay

Kickers don’t usually receive a lot of love, but Kasay deserves to be mentioned as one of the Panthers best free agent signings. After playing four seasons with the Seahawks, Kasay signed with the expansion Panthers in 1995 and would play 16 years for the club.

Kasay is still the franchise leader in career points (1,482), with Graham Gano currently second with just over half that total – 742.

Wesley Walls

Carolina has had two elite tight ends in it’s history. One of them is Greg Olsen, but before him, Wesley Walls was among the best tight ends in the NFL during his time with the Panthers. From 1996 to 2001, Walls was a five-time Pro Bowler and a four-time All-Pro. During his seven seasons with the Panthers, Walls recorded 324 receptions, 5,291 yards, and 44 touchdowns.

Gerald McCoy

This offseason, the Panthers made a huge splash when they signed McCoy after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers released him in May after the defensive tackle had spent nine seasons with the team. Although he hasn’t played a snap in a Panthers uniform, McCoy could be the impact player on the defensive line the Panthers have needed to complete the puzzle – not to mention signing one of the biggest names in free agency announces the Panthers as a true contender in 2019.

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McCoy is a six-time Pro Bowler and a three-time first team All-Pro. Since 2013, McCoy has registered at least six sacks during though six seasons – the only player in the NFL to do so.

Honorable Mentions

Cornerback Eric Davis
Linebacker Kevin Greene
Special teamer Michael Bates
Safety Eric Reid
Quarterback Steve Beuerlein
Wide receiver Ted Ginn, Jr.

Antwan S
Antwan Staley has written for publications such as USA TODAY, Bleacher Report, the Miami Herald and the Palm Beach Post. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.
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