The Carolina Panthers are bringing back former IU football tight end Ian Thomas the franchise reported on Friday.
The team has agreed to terms with Thomas on a new three-year contract. He was scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent on March 16. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Thomas’ new deal is worth $16.5 million with $8 million fully guaranteed.
Thomas, Carolina’s fourth-round pick in 2018, had 18 receptions for 188 yards in 2021.
The 6-foot-4 and 260 pound Thomas has developed into a respectable blocker, and is heading into a new offense which leaves room for growth as a receiver. He had 36 catches for 33 yards and two touchdowns as a rookie, and has amassed 90 catches for 802 yards and four touchdowns in 65 games over his four year NFL career.
New Panthers offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo’s system has always been friendly for tight ends, and that should provide Thomas the opportunity for a more prominent role in his fifth NFL season.
Thomas transferred to IU from Nassau Community College following the 2015 season. He played in all 13 games for the Hoosiers in 2016, and he emerged as a pro prospect during a strong senior season in 2017.
The Baltimore product was honorable mention All-Big Ten in 2017 and finished second among league tight ends with 15.0 yards per reception (4th nationally, 11th overall in the Big Ten), tied for third with five receiving touchdowns (T-12th nationally), and was fourth in receiving yardage (37.6) and catches per game (2.5). He ranked first on Indiana in average per reception, second with the five touchdowns, third with 376 yards and fourth with 25 catches.
For his IU career Thomas had 28 catches for 404 yards and five touchdowns.
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