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Derrick Brown on free agent additions and his first big splurge

Derrick Brown

CHARLOTTE—For the first time in Derrick Brown's NFL career, much will remain the same. He returned this week for the Panthers voluntary offseason workouts to the same defensive coordinator, the same position coach and a majority of the same veteran teammates. And for the man who just signed a contract extension with the expectation to be a foundational piece for a turnaround, that familiarity is comforting.

"Getting coach E (defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero) back was a huge thing for me," Brown shared Wednesday, speaking to local media about his contract extension. "Also, you know, having Todd Wash back as our D-line coach; this is the first time in my career, I've had the same D-line coach two years in a row.

"So, I mean, just being able to have familiarity around the building and to be able to stay in the system and know the system and just keep going within the system, you know, I think that's been awesome leading into the off-season."

There are a couple of changes though, and for the most part, they're ones that are part and parcel of helping Brown chase another record-breaking season. The Panthers added defensive lineman A'Shawn Robinson and pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney in free agency this year, bookending Brown in the trenches, and adding veteran experience to the entire defense.

Robinson, a former second round pick for the Detroit Lions, is heading into this ninth year. Even though Brown is coming off of a season in which he set the league record for most tackles by a defensive lineman (103), he knows having the experienced Robinson next to him can pay dividends. The Panthers brought back most of the defensive line, with Shy Tuttle, Nick Thurman, and LaBryan Ray returning from last year.

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"I think specifically speaking about the guys up front, we got, our room, we've added A'Shawn, still got LB, Thurman, Shy. So, I mean, I think we, we've had a pretty solid core in our room and same guys back really and adding A'Shawn. And I think as a whole D-line, we've got some talent on the edges. So, I'm excited to see how it all plays out."

Speaking of the edges, Clowney—a former No. 1 overall pick—is in his 11th season, and is hoping to replicate his 2023 season, which was one of his best in recent memory. With the Baltimore Ravens last year, Clowney posted 43 tackles, 9.5 sacks and two forced fumbles.

"He's not coming here, you know, for just a homecoming," Brown said of his new teammate. "He wants to be able to come in here and, we turn this thing around.

"We definitely needed something…when Brian (Burns) got traded. I obviously, I'm not upstairs so I kind of just go with the flow. So, I mean, I knew that they were going to try to get somebody good in here and they were able to sign him. So, I'm excited."

The Burns trade, to Brown's point, left a hole that had to be filled. It also created one of the few big changes Brown had to face when walking back in the building this week, with his former teammate now a member of the New York Giants. While that may change their football relationship though, Brown offered assurance that it wouldn't change anything off the field.

"He'll be a lifelong brother for me. We just congratulated each other," Brown said of Burns. "Even when he was traded and signed his big deal, I was one of the first ones to call him and it was an exciting moment, just like (he) was excited for me."

Brown will continue to use offseason workouts now to establish the relationship he and Robinson, Clowney and the entire defense will need, when they take the field this fall. Having the same coaching staff will make the transition easier for everyone. And for Brown, there will be only one other major change this offseason. Now that his contract extension is signed, it's time to settle on his splurge purchase.

"I think we're getting a pool in the backyard," he said.

View photos from the weight room and the practice field as the Panthers' players went through their second day of voluntary offseason workouts on April 9, 2024.

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