Panthers sign six draft picks to rookie deals

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CHARLOTTE — With rookies in the building for this weekend's minicamp, business is being conducted.

The Panthers signed six of their draft picks to their four-year rookie deals Thursday.

In addition to the previously reported agreements with fourth-rounder Chuba Hubbard and fifth-rounder Daviyon Nixon, the Panthers have also signed fifth-rounder Keith Taylor Jr. and sixth-rounders Deonte Brown, Shi Smith, and Thomas Fletcher.

Taylor, the 166th overall pick from Washington, adds another set of young legs to a secondary that needed them.

The 6-foot-2, 187-pounder joins first-rounder Jaycee Horn in a secondary that added A.J. Bouye and Rashaan Melvin this offseason.

While he wasn't on the American team roster coached by the Panthers, he did have some interaction with the coaching staff while in Mobile and was one of four 2021 Senior Bowl participants chosen by the team.

Brown, the 193rd overall pick from Alabama, adds a massive presence to the middle of the line.

The 6-foot-3, 345-pounder was a first-team All-SEC pick last year as he started all 13 games for Alabama at left guard.

The Panthers have some veteran options in the middle with Pat Elflein and John Miller, but Brown has potential to push for an eventual starting job.

Smith, the 204th overall pick from South Carolina, was the second of the former Gamecocks drafted by the Panthers this year (along with Horn).

The 5-9 1/2, 186-pound receiver was also one of four players from the Senior Bowl drafted by the Panthers.

He gives them a different look at the position and has been productive as a slot receiver. He led the Gamecocks with 57 catches for 633 yards (11.1 yards per catch) and four touchdowns last year.

Fletcher, the 222nd overall pick from Alabama, was also at the Senior Bowl, and the familiarity came through on his now-famous draft call with Panthers head coach Matt Rhule.

He'll compete with J.J. Jansen for the job, as the longest-tenured Panthers player remains on the roster and dependable.

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