6 worst free-agent signings in Panthers franchise history

We’re getting closer and closer to the first round of free agency under the Dan Morgan and Dave Canales regime. But let’s hope they don’t make anything close to the mistakes you’re about to see.

Here are the six worst free-agent signings in Carolina Panthers franchise history:

LB Denzel Perryman


The former second-round pick signed a two-year, $6 million deal with almost $3 million in guaranteed money in the spring of 2022. He’d only last until the summer of 2022.

After a shaky start to training camp, the linebacker was traded to the Las Vegas Raiders. The Panthers received a 2022 sixth-round pick in exchange for Perryman and a seventh-rounder.

Perryman, who didn’t play a single snap in Carolina, went on to become a Pro Bowler for the Raiders later that season.

C Pat Elflein

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

One of the first pacts to be reached in 2021, Elflein’s deal was quite a head-scratcher when it broke through. Unfortunately, the heads never stopped itching with confusion.

Elflein saw just two years of his three-year, $13.5 million contract. And over those two years, he played 15 of a possible 34 games due to hamstring and hip injuries.

K Olindo Mare

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

In an effort to replace longtime kicker John Kasay, the Panthers signed the 38-year-old Mare to a four-year, $12 million deal in 2011. And yes, $3 million in annual average with $4 million guaranteed was a lot for a kicker then.

Mare lasted just a single season, one in which he converted on 78.6 percent of his field goal tries.

OT Matt Kalil

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Like Elflein’s signing, the addition of Kalil was a painfully baffling one when it was first announced. And also like Elflein’s, it looked even worse by the time it ended.

Brother of Panthers great Ryan, the former fourth overall pick came over on a five-year, $55 million deal following an underwhelming run for the Minnesota Vikings. He started all 16 games on the blindside in the first season—but, amongst all left tackles, allowed the fourth-most pressures (44) and seventh-most sacks (six) while committing the fifth-most penalties (10).

After missing the entirety of the 2018 campaign due to a knee injury, he was released in the spring of 2019.

DE Chuck Smith

Craig Jones/Allsport
Craig Jones/Allsport

Smith spent his first eight NFL seasons in Atlanta, where he was pretty disruptive. The Athens, Ga. native totaled 58.5 sacks and 20 forced fumbles over 125 games.

Unfortunately, he was anything but that guy in Charlotte.

The Panthers inked Smith to a five-year, $21 million deal with a $4.5 million signing bonus in 2000. Thanks to an arthritic knee, he’d be released in the summer of 2001 upon failing a physical and called it a career shortly after.

He played just two games for Carolina.

DT Sean Gilbert

Craig Jones/Getty Images
Craig Jones/Getty Images

Gilbert’s path to Charlotte wasn’t a pretty one, as he sat out the whole 1997 season in Washington after refusing to play on the franchise tag. He did, however, have one heck of a prize waiting for him on the other side.

Carolina made the then-28-year-old the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history—inking him to a seven-year, $47 million contract in 1998. The Panthers also had to relinquish their first-round picks in 1999 and 2000 to the Redskins as part of the agreement.

The organization didn’t get anything close to a good return on the massive investment, as Gilbert failed to make much of an impact while playing in 64 of a possible 80 games. He was released after the fifth year of the pact.

Oh, and those first-rounders they traded away ended up as the fifth overall selection in 1999 (Ricky Williams) and the 12th overall selection in 2000 (Shaun Ellis). Torry Holt, Champ Bailey, Daunte Culpepper, John Abraham and Shaun Alexander were just a handful of players who were taken shortly after those picks.

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Story originally appeared on Panthers Wire