CHARLOTTE – The 2016 season was a big one for defensive end Mario Addison.
The former undrafted free agent recorded a career-high 9.5 sacks to lead the Panthers, and a few weeks before he was scheduled to become a free agent, Addison was rewarded with a lucrative three-year contract to keep him off the market.
"He consistently affects the quarterback," general manager Dave Gettleman said after Addison signed, "and we envision an increased role for him in our defense."
So what exactly will an increased role for Addison look like?
Addison isn't sure just yet. And if he's being honest, a spot in the starting lineup really isn't that important to him.
"No, not really," Addison said. "As long as I get the opportunity to play the game, that's all that matters.
"Like last year, I didn't start – but I got a whole lot of opportunities. And I played just as good as a starter. Everybody can't start, that's just the nature of it. But that doesn't mean the guy starting is necessarily better than you. So whenever I get in, I make the best of everything."
Addison has been labeled a "pass-rush specialist" throughout his career. His size (6-3, 260 pounds) and speed combination makes him a prototype to get after the quarterback in passing situations. According to Pro Football Focus’ analytics, Addison was the most productive third down pass rusher in the NFL last season.
But Addison also proved that he could both hold his own against the run, and use his explosiveness to make plays in the backfield (see the video below).
His snap count reflected increased trust from the coaching staff, as Addison was on the field around 60 percent of the time during the final three games of the season.
It appears more opportunities are on the way.
"I feel they are going to give me more snaps," Addison said. "That's good. The more snaps the better. I'm glad that I gained their trust and they believe that I can get the job done. Whenever they throw me out there I am going to make it happen."