South Carolina Football: Gamecock great signs new NFL contract with local team

South Carolina football alum DJ Wonnum signed a free agent contract with the Carolina Panthers on Thursday.

South Carolina football alum DJ Wonnum when he played for the Minnesota Vikings
South Carolina football alum DJ Wonnum when he played for the Minnesota Vikings / Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports
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South Carolina football alums Javon Kinlaw and Keisean Nixon were the first former Gamecocks to agree to new contracts in NFL Free Agency this week, but on Thursday, one of their former teammates joined them.

DJ Wonnum, who spent the last four seasons with the Minnesota Vikings, is heading down South after agreeing to a 2-year deal worth about $12.5 Million with the Carolina Panthers, according to a report from NFL Network's Tom Pelissero.

Wonnum, who partially tore his quad late in the 2023 season, had been a very productive player in Minnesota. Playing in a hybrid outside linebacker/defensive end role (and switching back and forth between the starting lineup and the bench unit), Wonnum tallied 8 sacks in 2 of the last 3 season and posted career-high numbers in tackles, tackles for loss, sacks, fumble recoveries, passes defended, and stuffs (run stops behind the line) last season.

Moving to the NFC South should provide Wonnum with even more opportunities to get after the passer as the Panthers were in desperate need of a pass rusher after the trade of Pro Bowler Brian Burns.

During his South Carolina football career, DJ Wonnum was a two-time All-SEC performer at defensive end despite spending most of his high school career rated as a 2-star tight end prospect. Wonnum finished his time as a Gamecock in the top-10 in program history in tackles for loss and top-15 in sacks despite playing fewer games than almost everyone on the list ahead of him.

Wonnum battled injuries while in college, and that is something that has continued into his pro career, but when he is healthy, he has proven himself to be a defensive playmaker. In Charlotte, he will have plenty of South Carolina football fans in attendance each week (the crossover between Gamecock fans and Panther fans is huge), so he should feel right at home.

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