CHARLOTTE — Wes Horton has been through this before.
The Panthers have parted ways with the veteran defensive lineman three times previously, but he’s back again. Horton, who was released by the Saints prior to the start of the 2019 season, signed with Carolina to fill the opening created by the team’s decision to place Cam Newton on injured reserve.
Additionally, the Panthers were interested in bolstering the defensive front.
“We have a little concern with Vernon (Butler) tweaking his back the way he did,” head coach Ron Rivera said. “Gerald (McCoy) is a veteran guy with a little knee soreness. We wanted a little insurance policy. Wes, he knows our system. It’s a little bit different, but he’s played all those positions and done a great job for us.”
Horton spent the first six seasons of his career in Carolina from 2013-18 after the Panthers signed him as an undrafted free agent out of Southern Cal. He was an unrestricted free agent last spring and signed with New Orleans in May.
Through his six seasons in Carolina, Horton tallied 95 tackles and 15.5 sacks. He had a career year in 2017, making 5.5 sacks and three forced fumbles.
But as Rivera alluded to, the system has changed. So while some may have assumed it was only a matter of time before Horton was back in Charlotte, he wasn’t so sure.
“I didn’t know, because they’ve made some changes with the defense and I didn’t know if I’d fit with my skill set and what they’re trying to do,” Horton said. “So when I got the call I was a little surprised.
“There are some similarities to what I was doing in New Orleans. Some of the terminology is a little similar. With the work I’ve put in at the three-technique and outside, they think I’m versatile enough and I believe I can play it.”
Horton acknowledged how strange it was wearing a Saints uniform after spending so much time with the Panthers, who have yet to play their rivals who lead the division.
“It was a little weird, that’s for sure,” Horton said of being in New Orleans. “It got better as time went, but this definitely feels like home now.”