The Carolina Panthers have signed OLB Luiji Vilain to their active roster, the team has announced.
Vilain, 25, signed with the Minnesota Vikings as an undrafted free agent in 2022, and received $207,000 guaranteed along with a $20,000 signing bonus, bringing his total rookie cap hit to $227,000, which was well above average for an undrafted player. Vilain was considered to be one of the Vikings biggest UDFA signings in 2022 along with OLB Zach McCloud who received $250,000 in guaranteed money.
Unlike McCloud, who was waived on cutdown day, Vilain managed to earn himself a spot on the 53-man roster in 2022 after a strong showing in training camp. Although Luiji Vilain did not make the 53-man roster in 2023 under new defensive coordinator Brian Flores, he still had a strong preseason. In just three preseason games, Luiji Vilain had 8 pressures, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble, and 4 solo tackles on just 112 total snaps.
Vilain now joins a Carolina Panthers team that is lacking depth at outside linebacker. Outside of star pass rusher Brian Burns, the Panthers are starting a 34 year old Justin Houston who has just one sack through the first 6 games of the regular season. To make matters worse, the team's third outside linebacker on the depth chart, Yetur Gross-Matos was recently placed on injured reserve after suffering a hamstring injury.
Needless to say, there is a lot of opportunity for Vilain to make an immediate impact for the Panthers. It's likely the reason why he decided to jump ship despite receiving a nice chunk of change from the Vikings to remain on the practice squad. Personally, I would've liked to see Vilain get more reps than OLB Patrick Jones who has been struggling, but Jones seems to have cemented himself as the fourth pass rusher on the depth chart.
Wishing the best of luck to you, Luiji!