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Panthers Sign Davis, Walls

February 21, 1996

ROCK HILL, S.C. (AP) _ The Carolina Panthers continued their aggressive pursuit of unrestricted free agents by signing San Francisco All-Pro cornerback Eric Davis on Tuesday night.

``He brings us not only all-pro credentials as a player, but also a Super Bowl-winning attitude,″ Carolina general manager Bill Polian said. ``We feel we’ve significantly upgraded our defense with the acquisition of Eric.″

Davis, 28, became the third unrestricted free agent signed in slightly more than 24 hours by the Panthers, who last year had a league-high 17.

The Panthers on Monday landed former Raiders offensive tackle Greg Skrepenak, and earlier Tuesday they got tight end Wesley Walls, formerly of New Orleans.

Davis, entering his seventh NFL season, is targeted to play opposite Tyrone Poole, a first-round draft choice last season who showed improvement throughout the year and worked his way into Carolina’s starting lineup.

Taken in the second round of the 1990 draft by the 49ers, Davis had come on strong in recent years, but San Francisco apparently was unable to find the money to keep him because of salary cap problems.

Davis visited with the Detroit Lions on Monday before flying into Charlotte on Monday night. He spent Tuesday touring the Panthers’ new stadium in Charlotte and visiting the team’s temporary practice complex in Rock Hill.

The Panthers, who had an estimated $12 million to work with under the salary cap, signed Davis to a multi-year deal. Terms were not released.

``It was a good fit,″ Davis said. ``It’s just a question of playing football now. This whole process is behind me, and I’m very happy to be a Carolina Panther.″

Davis started 63 of his last 64 games in San Francisco. In 1995, he had 51 tackles, three interceptions and a team-high 22 passes defended on the NFL’s top-ranked defense.

Davis has four postseason interceptions, including two interceptions and a touchdown against Dallas in the 1994 NFC championship and one interception against San Diego in the 1995 Super Bowl.

``Eric Davis has played at the premier level in this league,″ coach Dom Capers said. ``He has exceptional cover skills, is a good tackler and has the ability to make the big play on defense. He is an outstanding addition to this team.″

Walls, 29, will be entering his eighth year in the NFL. He had 57 receptions last season, a New Orleans club record for tight ends, for 694 yards and four touchdowns.

Those numbers represent a major step forward for Carolina, which got comparatively little production from its tight ends and finished its inaugural season ranked 26th in the 30-team league in total offense.

Pete Metzelaars, the Panthers’ starting tight end, had 20 receptions for 171 yards and three touchdowns. Metzelaars, 35, was released last week.

The 6-foot-5, 250-pound Walls negotiated with the Saints until last Thursday, ``and we just couldn’t get it done.″ Phoenix and Philadelphia also expressed interest in him, but he did not visit either team.

``This feels like home. This feels right,″ said Walls, who signed a three-year deal, the terms of which were not released.

Walls played the past two seasons with New Orleans after beginning his career with the 49ers, who made him a second-round draft choice in 1989. Walls backed up Brent Jones in San Francisco.

``I never was given a real shot,″ Walls said, adding he could see a similar scenario developing in New Orleans. The Saints were giving more and more playing time to Irv Smith, a 1993 first-round draft choice, and Walls said he wanted to go to a team ``where I could be the man, be the tight end, be the only guy.″

Walls, who has 106 career receptions for 1,167 yards and nine scores, will get that chance with the Panthers.

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