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Ravens free-agent target Gerald McCoy reportedly signing with Panthers

Standout free-agent defensive tackle Gerald McCoy has agreed to a one-year deal with the Carolina Panthers, according to media reports, spurning interest from the Ravens and Cleveland Browns to stay in the NFC South.

McCoy, 31, who mutually parted ways with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last month, reportedly visited Carolina on Friday, his last meeting before taking the weekend to decide. He had checked out Cleveland a week earlier and met with Ravens officials Tuesday and Wednesday.

While the Ravens were limited by their salary cap space, the Panthers carved out room for the six-time Pro Bowl selection late in their pursuit. With the release of tackle Matt Kalil as well as former Ravens receiver Torrey Smith's recently agreed-to pay cut, Carolina freed up over $9 million in additional cap space. McCoy's one-year deal is reportedly worth $8 million, including a $4 million signing bonus and incentives that could bring the total value up to as much as $10.25 million.

McCoy had said he wanted to sign with a playoff contender, and Ravens coach John Harbaugh was hopeful last week that McCoy would reunite with former Buccaneers defensive line coach Joe Cullen in Baltimore and join a talented interior defensive line.

“He’s an A-plus guy, A-plus personality,” Harbaugh said Thursday. “All the things he stands for, principle-wise, what he wants to be about as a football player, fit us. I told him, before he left, I said, ‘You haven’t been here yet, but to my mind, you’re a Raven. You’ve always been a Raven. So let’s make it official.’ So we’ll see, but it was great to have him here.”

With Brandon Williams and Michael Pierce returning, the Ravens will not lack for productive defensive tackles this season. But with the offseason departures of Za’Darius Smith and Terrell Suggs and the uncertainty surrounding the team’s pass rushers, both inside and outside, McCoy would’ve been a coup. In each of the past six seasons, he posted at least six sacks. Last season, Willie Henry, Chris Wormley, Brent Urban (now with the Tennessee Titans) and Williams combined for 3½ sacks in Baltimore, while Pierce finished without one.

Henry, if healthy, could be a regular pass-rush threat as a three-technique defensive lineman, while Wormley also has shown flashes at the position McCoy likely would’ve taken over. But his decision to join Carolina renews the pressure on veteran edge rushers Matthew Judon, Tim Williams and Tyus Bowser as well as new additions Jaylon Ferguson, Shane Ray and Pernell McPhee.

jshaffer@baltsun.com

twitter.com/jonas_shaffer

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