As the Panthers entered free agency, it was said that GM Marty Hurney would use “selective aggression” when choosing his targets – that strategy appears to be paying dividends as the Panthers have now made two relatively low-priced free agent signings in the past four days – perhaps not names that will make national news, but depth pieces that will ultimately make an impact on the field for the Panthers during the 2019 season, as the team announced Friday that it was signing veteran wide receiver Chris Hogan and today broke the news that they would be bringing back veteran defensive tackle Kyle Love.
Love, who led Carolina with three forced fumbles and two recoveries in 2018, tested the free agent market but ultimately will return to Carolina as he enters his tenth NFL season – he spent the first three years of his career in New England before finding his way to Carolina near the end of the 2014 season.
The former undrafted free agent has found a role in the Panthers defensive line rotation, at times outsnapping Vernon Butler and Dontari Poe, both of whom were first round picks, last season as he tallied 19 tackles and 1.5 sacks. Love has appeared in 33 consecutive games for the Panthers and saw 46.9% of the defensive snaps last season.
The Panthers have signed multiple players this year to one-year deals, ranging from Love and Hogan to pass rusher Bruce Irvin, five players from the now-defunct Alliance of American Football, backups Taylor Heinicke and Cameron Artis-Payne along with tackle Daryl Williams – it’s clear there are multiple players who will be asked to “prove it” in 2019 while the team maintains flexibility moving forward – and that includes Kyle Love.
The Panthers made no secret of their desire to bring back Love this offseason – both Ron Rivera and Marty Hurney talked about his value in the Panthers’ defensive front. A return of Eric Washington’s leadership – Washington, still the defensive coordinator, will oversee the front seven while Ron Rivera handles the defensive playcalling – is expected to improve the play of a defensive line unit that disappointed last season in terms of pressuring the quarterback.
The defensive tackle rotation of 2018, it appears, will be intact in 2019 as the Panthers reported Monday for voluntary workouts – Love included.
Exact terms of Love’s deal were not disclosed at this time.