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The Panthers have a solid defensive line going into the offseason. They could use some more depth on the interior, though – especially if they plan to cut veteran defensive tackle Kawann Short. Doing so after June 1 would save Carolina some $13.2 million in salary cap space. However, it would also come with around $6.3 million in dead money and take away the team’s best interior defensive lineman.
If Short gets cut, then the Panthers will have to consider adding another iDL in the draft. If they go the free agent path, the most interesting name to watch this year is Shelby Harris of the Broncos.
No other interior defensive lineman in this free agent class is more underrated than Harris. He’s an excellent run stopper, having missed only five tackles in three years. He’s also posted 16 pass deflections over the last two seasons, more than any other DL in the NFL during that time. Harris can also move the pocket and get pressure. He’s posted 16.5 sacks and 35 quarterback hits in his career (67 regular season games).
Harris would make a great addition to Carolina’s DL. However, he will turn 30 years old just before next season starts and many pro athletes begin to decline around that time. We may have already seen the best of what Harris can do. The real question though is how much he would cost them. Harris should finally be able to cash in this year after flying under the radar, so a bidding war is certainly a possibility.
With big-ticket free agent defensive linemen like Jadeveon Clowney and Shaq Barrett out of reach, the Panthers will have to settle for second-tier DL like Harris or Johnathan Hankins if they go this route. Harris is easily our favorite among those options and well worth a mid-level investment.