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Carolina Panthers sign linebacker Jordan Kunaszyk

Updated: Aug 1, 2020

The Carolina Panthers have reportedly signed former Cal Golden Bears linebacker Jordan Kunaszyk, who went undrafted in the 2019 NFL Draft. The Panthers' signing of Kunasyzk was first reported by Joe Person of The Athletic.

A former three-star recruit out of Roseville, California, Kunaszyk began his career with the Golden Bears as a sophomore, playing in 12 games and accruing 47 tackles (One for loss) to go with one big-time interception: In double overtime against the Oregon Ducks, Kunaszyk would make the game-sealing interception that earned the Golden Bears a dramatic 52-49 victory and their first win against Oregon in eight games against the program.

He would improve on those numbers the next season, making 74 tackles (Six for loss) with 3.5 sacks, two interceptions, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery despite playing in just eight games due to injury. In 2018, Kunasyzk make an even bigger impact: In 13 games, Kunaszyk made 143 total tackles (10 for loss) to go with four sacks, an interception, three passes defensed, a fumble recovery, and five forced fumbles.

Kunasyzk was one of several Golden Bears to sign with NFL teams as undrafted free agents, joining running back Patrick Laird (Miami Dolphins), tight end Ian Bunting (Chicago Bears), and offensive lineman Patrick Mekari (Baltimore Ravens). But the Panthers' signing of Kunasyzk has an extra layer of intrigue given who his head coach now is.

Once upon a time, Panthers head coach Ron Rivera parlayed his career playing linebacker at Cal into an NFL career, as he was taken in the second round of the 1984 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears. Rivera would spend his entire playing career in Chicago, winning Super Bowl XX as the highlight of a career that lasted until 1992.

Kunaszyk will now attempt to make the Panthers' 53-man roster, and become a part of a linebacking corps that will look significantly different from the one that became the NFL's most-dominant of the 2010s. With franchise great Thomas Davis having left the team in order to continue his playing career and the Panthers adopting multiple fronts on defense, Luke Kuechly and Shaq Thompson will now be complimented by two versatile new linebackers: The Panthers signed veteran edge rusher Bruce Irvin as a free agent, and then used their fourth-round draft pick on Christian Miller. Both players are capable of playing at both outside linebacker and at defensive end, as is first-round draft pick Brian Burns.

Kunaszyk is likely to compete with a number of players for the final roster spots at linebacker, including Andre Smith, Jared Norris, Brandon Chubb, Jonathan Celestin, and Antwione Williams. Special teams could end up being Kunaszyk's way to a roster spot, as longtime special teams linebacker Ben Jacobs ended his playing career following the 2018 season to join the Panthers' coaching staff.

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