Matt Rhule has made it very clear in the hiring of his coaching staff that he values the relationships he has made throughout his coaching career, with much of his staff being made up of familiar names and faces from the head coach’s time at both Temple and Baylor. And as free agency enters it’s second wave Monday afternoon, the Panthers have added another couple of familiar faces to the roster – after signing wide receiver Keith Kirkwood, who played at Temple under Rhule, last week, the Panthers have reportedly agreed to terms with both quarterback PJ Walker and linebacker Tahir Whitehead, according to multiple reports – both players are former Temple standouts.
Whitehead, whose one-year deal is said to be worth $2.5m with a $1.45m signing bonus, has spent eight years in the league and has spent time at both strong-side and middle linebacker throughout his career – the 6-2, 241-pound former fourth-round pick has started every game save for one the past four seasons and has 633 tackles, 12 QB hits and five interceptions through 125 career games.
The $1.05m salary is the league minimum for a player with Whitehead’s experience.
After Vontaze Burfict was suspended in Week 5 of last season, Whitehead moved over from the outside LB position and occupied the middle of the 4-3 defense while calling the defensive plays – he may not get the captain patch or the helmet with the headset in it in 2020, but it’s likely he’ll occupy the middle of the Carolina defense after Luke Kuechly’s sudden retirement in January.
While Whitehead has worn #59 his entire NFL career, that will almost certainly change when he arrives in Carolina as that jersey is destined for the Hall of Honor sooner rather than later.
Late in the season, Whitehead ceded his MLB spot to Will Compton, whom the Raiders signed in the middle of the season – the Raiders released Whitehead earlier this month, clearing $6.25m in cap space two years into a three-year, $18m contract.
Whitehead has had more than 100 tackles in four consecutive seasons, but his 941 defensive snaps last season were the most in the NFL for any linebacker who failed to record a sack, an interception, a fumble recovery or a forced fumble, according to the Associated Press. The Panthers now seem set to start Whitehead, Shaq Thompson and third-year LB Jermaine Carter, Jr. – but they are not done shoring up their defense as they’ll need to keep adding pieces through both free agency and next month’s draft.
(Top Photo Via D. Ross Cameron/Associated Press)