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Grading the Carolina Panthers' Signing of Paul Soliai

The Panthers addressed a need with the addition of former Pro Bowler Paul Soliai. Brandon Croce hands out his grade for the move.

For this free agent signing, and all signings from this point forward, we will be breaking the move down into four categories. Each category is worth up to 25 points and a final grade will be handed out based on the total score. These are the definitions of each category:

Player- How has the player produced to this point in his career? Where does he rank among other players at his position?

Team Fit- How does he fit within the offensive or defensive scheme?

Team Need- Is this position a weak spot on the roster? Does this move strengthen the position?

Contract- Is this a reasonable contract based on production? Did the team over spend or did they get a steal?

Player

Grade: 21 out of 25

Paul Soliai was drafted in the fourth round by the Miami Dolphins in the 2007 NFL Draft and played his first seven years in the league with the team. He also earned his only Pro Bowl selection with the Dolphins in 2011.

He became a free agent after the 2012 season and signed a big contract (5 years, $33 million) with the Atlanta Falcons. The team was hoping he would be the anchor in the middle of their defense and help shore up their run defense.

However, he didn't fit in new head coach Dan Quinn's defensive scheme and was released by the Falcons last week.

The strength of Soliai's game is certainly against the run and at 6'4" and over 330 pounds, he is tough to move and shuts down running lanes. He has never been known to be a big pass rusher though with only 5.5 sacks in his nine year career.

Team Fit

Grade: 18 out of 25

This is certainly the biggest question mark for the Carolina Panthers with the signing of Soliai, who has had his best years in a 3-4 defense. The Panthers meanwhile run a 4-3 defense and one of the reasons they have been successful is they are able to get pressure on the quarterback from the defensive tackle position.

Last year, the team got 16 of their 44 sacks in the regular season from the middle of their defensive line with Kawann Short leading the way with 11.

While there are questions about how he fits in terms of pass rush, he is a stout run defender and should be an excellent addition in stopping the run.

Team Need

Grade: 25 out of 25

The defensive tackle was a position of strength last year however there is a great deal of uncertainty at this point. The team could lose both of their reserve defensive tackles after they released Dwan Edwards and Kyle Love currently being a free agent. On top of this, there is some questions about the future of Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short past this season. Both of these players could become free agents after this upcoming season.

The need to bring in an established veteran was very important and it is hard to find Pro Bowl defensive tackles who are willing to play in a reduced role. The Panthers were able to address one of their key need areas with this move.

Contract

Grade: 19 out of 25

The Panthers' signed Soliai to a two-year deal, worth $7 million. The positive of this contract is that it is only for two years, which is perfect for a 32-year old defensive tackle who is close to the end of his career.

The dollar amount though is a little surprising and Soliai instantly becomes the highest paid defensive tackle on the team with an average salary of $3.5 million. According to Spotrac, this average salary is the 23rd highest salary for defensive tackles which is a little high for a back-up.

Final Grade

Grade: 83 out of 100

This was an interesting move for the Carolina Panthers and I am approaching this with reserved optimism. I have some questions about how Soliai will fit in this defense and surprised at the contract given to the tackle.

While there are questions about the move, there is an opportunity here for Soliai to finish his career with excellent years. If he can continue to show the ability to stop the run and possibly get some pressure on the quarterback with more one-on-one match ups, this could turn out to be an excellent move. 

Twitter @BrandonCroce.

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