Defensive tackle Kawann Short was a critical interior presence for the Carolina Panthers on the way to the Super Bowl during the 2015 season and turned in a solid campaign in 2016. The team made sure it kept him around on Monday.
The Panthers announced they applied the non-exclusive franchise tag to Short, meaning they would receive a pair of first-round draft picks in return should they opt not to match another team's offer sheet to the player.
However, the extension never came, which left Short as a free agent this offseason. Scott Fowler of the Charlotte Observer called Short the team's "highest-profile free agent."
Fowler noted Short preferred the Panthers didn't use the franchise tag on him but added, "He further said that if the Panthers used their franchise tag on him in the offseason that he would 'most likely' sign it right away."
While Short would have liked a long-term deal, the Panthers ensured they would bring back a player who earned a sparkling grade of 87.7 on Pro Football Focus' free-agency tracker, which was second at his position behind only Calais Campbell.
The Panthers selected Short out of Purdue in the second round of the 2013 draft at No. 44, and he has developed into a defensive force. He appeared in all 64 of Carolina's regular-season games since entering the league and has shown a steady statistical improvement as he gains more experience:
|Kawann Short's Career Stats|
|Season||Games||Combined Tackles||Sacks||Forced Fumbles||Fumble Recoveries|
Ideally, for Carolina that improvement will continue following this new deal.
Short's 11 sacks in 2015 were tied for eighth-best in the league, and he did so from the defensive tackle position without the consistent option of attacking the quarterback from the edge. As a result, he earned his first career Pro Bowl nod and recognition as a member of the All-NFL Second Team by the Associated Press.
His numbers dipped some in 2016, but Short is only 28 years old with four years of work under his belt as a reliable cog in the lineup. Injuries have not been a concern throughout his career, and the Panthers ensured he will be lining up for them for at least another season of his prime.
Carolina finished sixth in the NFL in 2015 with 44 sacks and second in 2016 with 47, largely because of Short. When he wasn't the one overpowering his way into the backfield and tackling the quarterback, he would open up pass-rushing lanes for teammates by commanding double-teams.
He will likely continue to do that in a Carolina uniform in 2017 after Monday's news.