CHARLOTTE – The Panthers were in need of a defensive tackle, but they caught everyone off guard when they secured the services of two-time Pro Bowler Dontari Poe.
Even defensive coordinator Eric Washington was among those surprised to learn Carolina was in the mix for Poe on Thursday.
"(General manager) Marty (Hurney) stopped by my office," Washington said. "And I said, 'Oh, we're in that ballgame?!'"
They were in it and they won it. Poe signed a three-year deal with the Panthers on Friday, and his arrival fills the hole created by the departure of former first-round pick Star Lotulelei to the Bills via free agency.
It's a big-time move, and Washington is confident Hurney will get a return on that investment.
"In short, he really fits us," Washington said of Poe while trying to contain his obvious excitement. "He has all the traits, the tools, the attitude, the mentality that we're looking for with the way we want to play defense.
"He can play on an edge, he can play over the center. He can collapse the pocket. He has the ability to win one-on-one and affect the passing game by rushing the quarterback."
Listed at 6-foot-3 and 346 pounds, Poe is a powerful space-eating defensive tackle with the ability to occupy double-teams. He also has the short area explosiveness to be a disruptive force consistently.
"For a man his size, he has initial quickness and get-off like we talk about all the time," Washington said. "He can attack."
Poe spent 2017 with the Atlanta Falcons after five seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs, who selected him with the 11th overall pick out of Memphis in 2012. His career totals include 179 tackles, 15.5 sacks, 14 passes defensed, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. He's only missed two games in his career.
Now he'll partner with Kawann Short, another one of the league's most disruptive interior defensive linemen.
"With two guys of that caliber, we're excited to see what will happen," Washington said. "There will be times when one person will have a one-on-one opportunity and the other will complement that guy in the form of an overlap player. Both those guys will need to penetrate and change the line of scrimmage."
Poe's arrival does beg another important question: what about defensive tackle Vernon Butler – Carolina's first-round pick in 2016?
He's the No. 3 defensive tackle behind two Pro Bowlers. And Washington expects him to be a significant contributor for what is again primed to be one of the best defensive fronts in the NFL.
"This doesn't take away from his development or our expectations for Vernon. He is going to be a fantastic pro, and he has starter ability. This third year is going to be really important for him and for us," Washington said.
"What this does it is really solidifies the defensive tackle rotation we like to utilize. It makes it potent, formidable. That group has to be productive – and it will be."
View photos of newly signed defensive tackle Dontari Poe throughout his career.