After re-signing team captain and special teams leader Colin Jones Monday, the Panthers continued their quiet start to the legal tampering period of free agency at that by continuing to secure depth on their roster after signing backup quarterback Taylor Heinicke to a one-year contract, the team announced Tuesday.
Heinicke, who was claimed off of waivers ahead of the 2017 season, spent the season backing up Cam Newton before starting Week 16, where he suffered a hyperextended left elbow – Heinicke would ultimately be placed on injured reserve and have surgery after the season to repair the injury.
Heinicke told Bryan Strickland of the team website that his rehab is going according to plan and he indicated he will be ready for offseason activities, where he’s expected to compete with Kyle Allen, who started Week 17 and led the Panthers to a 33-14 win over the New Orleans Saints and is under contract for the 2019 season. Ron Rivera also indicated last month at the NFL scouting combine that the Panthers may look to the draft to bring in another young quarterback to compete with Heinicke and Allen.
The former Old Dominion quarterback, whose 26th birthday is this week, was set to become a free agent on Wednesday – before coming to the Panthers, he had stints with the Texans, Patriots and Vikings; Heinicke spent time in Minnesota with Panthers offensive coordinator Norv Turner.
“I don’t have that huge, massive, rocket arm. I don’t run a 4.3. I’m six foot, 205 pounds, so it’s not like I’m going to run you over or run away from you or throw it 70 yards in the air,” said Heinicke in the week leading up to his first start in 2018. “[But] I feel like if I keep doing the right thing, whatever the defense shows, whatever the playbook tells me to do – just do that and let those playmakers do what they do with the ball.”
Heinicke led the Panthers to a touchdown on his first drive before leaving with the elbow injury, returning after missing one possession to play the rest of the game while clearly in pain.
The true free agency period is set to begin at 4p on Wednesday.