CHARLOTTE – Defensive end Mario Addison, the Panthers' sack leader this past season, has signed a three-year contract to remain with the team through 2019.
Addison was set to become an unrestricted free agent when the new league year begins March 9. He is the first of Carolina's 15 potential unrestricted free agents to re-sign.
"Mario has shown he is one of the best emerging pass rushers in the league and he deserves this contract," general manager Dave Gettleman said. "He consistently affects the quarterback, and we envision an increased role for him in our defense. He's a pro in the way he approaches the game and brings an upbeat attitude to our locker room. We're thrilled he will continue his career with the Panthers."
Addison has arguably been the Panthers' most consistent pass rusher with a team-high 22 sacks over the past three seasons, including a career-high 9.5 sacks in 2016.
"A lot of fans reached out to me and asked me if I was going to stay. My family loves it here, and I love it here, too. I'm very excited to be here," Addison said. "The guys that I play with are like my brothers. I've been here since 2012, and we've built a great bond.
"The coaches are like brothers to me, too. Coach Rivera is a great guy, a players' coach who knows what it's like to wear a uniform. Same thing with the training staff and equipment staff, just everybody around here. We look out for each other. I don't think there's another locker room like this."
Undrafted out of Troy in 2011, Addison bounced around the league for two seasons before finding a home in Carolina. He appeared in 15 games for the Bears, Colts and Redskins but didn't record a sack before the Panthers signed him off Washington's practice squad for the final month of the 2012 season.
Addison said he initially thought Carolina might just be another stop, but he soon realized otherwise.
"It felt that way, but they played me at outside linebacker and defensive end and actually used my talents, used what I'm good at," Addison said. "I remember thinking, 'OK, OK, I like this.' "
Addison recorded his first career sack in his second game and added 2.5 sacks in 2013 before beginning to truly come into his own the next season.
Already a key rotational pass rusher entering 2014, Addison recorded 2.5 sacks in the second game of the year on his way to 6.5 for the season, then he added six more sacks in 2015 despite missing two games. This past season he shed his reputation as just a situational pass rusher, recording a career-high 26 tackles and his first career safety to go with 9.5 sacks in 14 games.
"We're a team, but you still have to perform individually. I knew I had to come out and do my thing," Addison said. "They gave me the opportunity – gave me more snaps – and I showed what I could do with them.
"Every year, you've got to improve. If you don't, you get left behind. I'm just going to give my all, like I always have, and continue to develop into the player I know I can be – just ball out."
View photos of defensive end Mario Addison in action.