CHARLOTTE – At first glance, it wasn't a signing that created that much of a stir.
A week before the 2012 regular season kicked off, the Panthers signed the veteran defensive tackle. Edwards had just been released by the Buffalo Bills, a team that had given up more points than all but two NFL teams the previous season.
But in his debut with Carolina, Edwards recorded a pair of sacks to set the tone for a season in which he played a pivotal part in changing the perception of the Panthers' defensive front.
"We turned what some people might have called a negative into a strength of our team," Edwards said. "I just came here to work and contribute. I didn't know how it was all going to unfold but I knew we had some good players, and we turned out to be a pretty good group."
The 6-3, 300-pound Edwards proved to be a key cog throughout, finishing with more sacks (6.0) in 14 games than he had compiled over his first 83 NFL games (5.5). His sack total ranked second to Ndamukong Suh among NFC defensive tackles, and his tackle total (52) ranked fourth.
"Well shoot, it was quite a year with the transition after getting released by Buffalo and coming here and starting from the get-go," said Edwards, a Montana native with a twang to match. "I feel like I did pretty well considering the circumstances of not having any chemistry built up and not knowing exactly what was going on at first. I was able to contribute and hopefully elevate the play of the D-line."
The signing of Edwards came at the expense of Terrell McClain, the Panthers' third-round pick just a year earlier, but the team made the move recognizing that Edwards was much more than a cast-off from a struggling defense. Edwards had been a productive pro since the Baltimore Ravens selected him in the second round of the 2004 draft out of Oregon State, but the Bills had 2011 Pro Bowl selection Kyle Williams as well as Marcell Dareus – the No. 3 overall pick in the 2011 draft – at the position.
"It was just one of those situations," Edwards said. "I've been around long enough to see it happen, so I wasn't 100 percent blown out of the water by the news, but you don't know what's next. I knew this was a potential place, and I signed the next day."
Edwards said the change of address proved to be a blessing.
"No doubt about it," he said. "I went from thinking I'd get maybe 15 snaps a game in Buffalo as a backup to getting a chance to be a starter and really contribute for this team. It was a huge opportunity for me, and it worked out well."
What made Edwards' season all the more remarkable was that he dealt with a significant injury for more than half of it.
He suffered a wrist injury in Week 7 against the Dallas Cowboys that affected him the remainder of the year. The pain from a chipped bone eventually forced him Edwards to miss games in Week 14 and 15, but he returned to help the Panthers turn a two-game winning streak into a four-game streak to wrap up the season.
"It was tough, from the Dallas game when I hurt it. I dealt with it for a long time," Edwards said. "I didn't want to finish the season on IR. I wanted to go out and finish strong. With me playing, I feel like that gives the team the best chance to win, so I wanted to be out there."
And now, Edwards can't wait to get out there again.
"As I had time playing with some great guys like Ron (Edwards), Charles (Johnson) and Greg (Hardy), we definitely put something together," Edwards said. "And we should be able to going forward."