Eagles leading pass rusher wanted to stay with Carolina, but Panthers ‘just had other plans’

Melissa Melvin-Rodriguez/

Former Panthers pass rusher Haason Reddick will play in Super Bowl 57 on Sunday as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles, but the Pro Bowl linebacker said this week he never really wanted to leave Carolina.

“It was not that I wanted to test free agency,” Reddick said on Super Bowl Opening Day. “Carolina just had other plans and other directions they wanted to go.”

Reddick signed a three-year, $45 million deal with the Eagles last March after setting a career high in sacks in his one season in Carolina. Reddick parlayed his team-high 11 sacks into a lucrative free agent deal that Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer was unwilling to match.

At the time, Carolina had other priorities. The Panthers had more than 20 free agents to re-sign, including Donte Jackson, Frankie Luvu and Ian Thomas, all of whom Carolina did retain.

But Carolina was also pursuing quarterback Deshaun Watson at the time. To remain a possible landing spot for Watson — who eventually waived his no-trade clause for the Cleveland Browns — Carolina had to keep cap space available rather than commit to Reddick or other expensive free agents.

Before the 2021-22 season ended, Reddick said he hoped to remain in Carolina.

“I don’t know what’s gonna happen you know,” Reddick said then. “I let my agent and Scott (Fitterer) deal with that. Because that’s not really where my focus is right now. My focus is on trying to finish the season strong. But I said before, man, definitely would love to be back.”

The move worked out for Reddick, though: He’ll start in the Super Bowl on Sunday after helping the Eagles rack up a franchise-record 70 sacks this season. He also set a personal best with 16 sacks.