The Panthers didn’t take long to make the first free agent signing of the first season of the Matt Rhule Era as the ‘legal tampering period’ opened at noon on Monday afternoon and by 7p that evening, Stephen Weatherly’s agent had announced that his client had agreed to a two-year, $12.5m deal with the Panthers.
The 6-5, 265-pound defensive end who will turn 26 this week was drafted in the 7th round of the 2016 NFL Draft and after spending a few weeks on the practice squad his rookie season, he’s started seven games the past two years as he made his way into the defensive end rotation behind stalwarts Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter – in 2018, he appeared in all 16 games and started six when Griffen missed time – the Vanderbilt product totaled 43 tackles, three sacks, seven TFLs, and 32 QBHs in exactly 50% of the snaps that season.
Congratulations Stephen. I am proud of you and I know the best is yet to come. Charlotte, @Panthers fans, you got a great one. You have a huge heart and will have an instant impact on that community. Minnesota will miss you dearly pic.twitter.com/zoEumlHo2r
— Blake Baratz (@blakebaratz) March 16, 2020
Last season, he also produced three sacks in fewer snaps while continuing to contribute on special teams.
Weatherly, who plays nine instruments (!), majored in sociology at Vanderbilt and will fit into Rhule’s vision of high character players in the locker room as Weatherly was an active participant in Vikings social justice initiatives, including trips to the Hennepin County Juvenile Detention Center and multiple Twin Cities high schools. He was also active with the One Love Foundation, dedicated to eliminating relationship violence through education and empowerment on college campuses, including dedicating last year’s ‘My Clause, My Cleats’ to the organization.
Weatherly will add depth to the defensive line rotation with second-year players Brian Burns and Christian Miller, along with Efe Obada and recent signee Chris Smith expected to compete in the rotation. Mario Addison and Bruce Irvin, who started the majority of games on the edge in 2019, have both signed elsewhere.
The contract is reportedly worth $6.5m in guaranteed earnings.
Soon after the news of the Weatherly signing broke, Adam Schefter reported that the team had also agreed to terms with journeyman safety Juston Burris on a two-year deal worth $8m.
Burris, who attended North Carolina State University, has spent his four-year career with the Jets and the Browns, adding a stop with the Oakland Raiders in a whirlwind 19-day stretch that saw him waived by the Browns and picked up by the Raiders, only to be waived by the Raiders and then picked up again in Cleveland — and then going on to start that Sunday, play every defensive snap and add an interception.
Burris, who was drafted in the fourth round of the 2016 Draft by the Jets, has started 11 games in his career, including nine last season in Cleveland – he has four career interceptions, 71 tackles and allowed an 89.1 passer rating when targeted, according to Pro Football Reference. Panthers run game coordinator Al Holcomb was the linebackers coach in Cleveland last season.
Top Pictures Via Vikings.Com and Jason Miller / Getty Images