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Panthers 2019 potential free agent target profile: LB Preston Smith

With a glaring need for linebackers, the Carolina Panthers should consider Washington Redskins’ pending free agent Preston Smith. Carolina has one of the best linebackers in the league in Luke Kuechly, but concern grows quickly after him. Thomas Davis was let go by the team and the next best name on the list of linebackers would be Shaq Thompson. After him, there’s nobody proven on the roster at the position.

Smith has been a model of consistency after playing every single game of his four year career with Washington. Since his second season, he’s started every single game and is coming off of his best year. He had 53 combined tackles and four sacks last season along with an interception. Here’s why Smith might fit for the Panthers in free agency.

Games Tackles Sacks TFL FF QB Hits
65 106 (solo) 25.5 30 4 60

Smith is coming off a season where he recorded 53 tackles, four sacks, one interception and a fumble returned for a touchdown. He had 53 quarterback pressures and is a threat off the edge, which is something that the Panthers need as they potentially shift to a 3-4 or hybrid defense. In 2018, he recorded a career-high 76.9 Pro Football Focus grade and his grade has been on a steady rising since the start of his career.

While searching for reliable linebackers who can keep the ball in front of them and stay on the field, Smith doesn’t have many cons. His ceiling isn’t ridiculously high, but his work ethic is and that can make up for a lot. The big thing that would make him undesirable for the Panthers would be the need for a high contract. He had a $1.8 million salary in 2018 which would be a nice bargain going forward, but he’s going to expect a lot more per season on his next contract.

The Panthers would have to present a desirable contract option to Smith that doesn’t hurt their cap space too much. Selling him on the idea of starting next to the generational superstar Kuechly on a competitive team could help lure him away from other suitors.

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