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A young Bruce Irvin? Bryan Cox Jr. eager to learn from veteran addition


CHARLOTTE – Defensive end Bryan Cox Jr. made things official for 2019 on Thursday, signing his exclusive rights tender.

Cox signed the one-year deal two days after the Panthers signed unrestricted free agent Bruce Irvin, a proven and versatile veteran who made mention during his conference call of wanting to help Cox come into his own.

"I'm really looking forward to meeting Bryan Cox," Irvin said. "I'm really eager to get my hands on him and show him how to be a pro, how to be successful in this league. That's kind of what I'm most looking forward to. He reminds me of a young Bruce."

Cox was surprised to hear Irvin's mention - pleasantly surprised.

"I did actually see the quote that I remind him of a young him. I thought that was pretty cool," Cox said. "I'm excited to work with him as well. He's been a great player in this league for years. He's a professional who approaches the game right, and he's productive."

While Thursday's transaction was just a paperwork matter, Cox became the final among the Panthers' four exclusive rights free agents to sign. He has the most playing experience among the four but still it isn't much: Undrafted out of Florida in 2017, the 6-foot-3, 270-pounder has seen spot duty in 18 games and has 16 tackles based on press box stats.

Irvin talked about being able to use his versatility in the multiple-look defense that Carolina is looking at for next season, and that is one thing he and Cox have in common.

"I was a defensive end (at Florida) but we played some hybrid as well," Cox said. "I feel like I'm versatile in the sense that no matter what I weigh, I can do whatever.

"I can be myself. I like to play loose, like to have a little bit of freedom."

With fellow exclusive rights free agent Efe Obada returning along with sack leader Mario Addison and second-year defensive end Marquis Haynes Sr. – and with Irvin now in the building – Cox is preparing himself to compete.

"This is a big year," he said. "It's time for me to step into what I believe I am – not proving everybody else wrong but proving myself right."