The Carolina Panthers offense is already under the knife for a desperately needed facelift this offseason. But it seems as though the defense, or at least the brains behind it, is fine just the way it is.
As first reported by Joe Person of The Athletic on Monday morning, defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero will be sticking around for the 2024 season. So, what does this mean for the team moving forward?
Here are the biggest takeaways from the big keep-away:
Hiring Dave Canales was a bit of a wild-card move. Not only was the lone season as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator his highest NFL rank, but the Panthers were the only team to interview the 42-year-old for a head-coaching opportunity this offseason.
So, as he gets acquainted with his new job and focuses on fixing the team’s defective offense, getting back the experienced and effective leader on the other side of the ball isn’t exactly a terrible prospect.
Evero’s return provides some much needed stability to a locker room that has seen three head-coaching changes in the last five years. Running it back also gives the defense a chance to build on a relatively impressive 2023 campaign, one in which they allowed the fourth-fewest yards per game (293.3).
Keeping on the theme of success, Evero’s presence helped produce a few career campaigns as well.
The obvious beneficiary is first-time Pro Bowler Derrick Brown, who set a single-season NFL record for most tackles by a defensive lineman (103). While solid throughout the first three years of his career, the former seventh overall pick finally became the ever-present wrecking ball the franchise drafted him to be.
A few soon-to-be free agents also chimed in with noteworthy seasons—including linebackers Frankie Luvu and Yetur Gross-Matos. Luvu was let loose for a career-best 125 tackles and Gross-Matos thrived in his new role as a stand-up defender.
But despite those results, the unit still lacked in the big-play department. The Panthers were dead-last in takeaways (11), sacks (27) and pressures (90).
Much of the work was left to their premier pass rusher in Brian Burns, who finished with the fewest sacks (8.0) since his rookie campaign. While there could’ve been quite a few factors that went into that “down” year, the lack of other reliable sack getters played a huge part in that underwhelming production.
The new football operations power duo of Dan Morgan and Brandt Tilis has to find some, well, “dawgs” to add to their on-field personnel.
Being that Evero is a minority coach and is headed for his second year as the team’s defensive coordinator, the Panthers are now set up for a severance package.
If the popular play-caller is hired as a head coach from 2025 on, Carolina will receive two third-round compensatory picks. And based off the interest he’s garnered for such a chance the past two offseasons, that’s a very real possibility.
In addition to getting a crack for this organization once again, Evero also bagged head-coaching chats with the Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks last month. In fact, he reached the second stage of both searches.
While losing Evero would mean he probably did an even better job with the defense in 2024, at least the Panthers wouldn’t be coming away empty-handed.