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Panthers Reach Deal With Top Pick, Offensive Lineman Ickey Ekwonu

Carolina Panthers helmet.

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - DECEMBER 26: A detailed photo of Carolina Panthers helmets during their game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Bank of America Stadium on December 26, 2021 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

The Carolina Panthers have locked in their first pick of the 2022 draft on a rookie deal.

On Tuesday, the organization reached a four-year, fully-guaranteed contract with No. 6 overall pick Ikem "Ickey" Ekwonu. The NC State offensive tackle will head to Charlotte on a deal worth $27.56 million.

The contract also includes a fifth-year option and a $17.2 million signing bonus.

Ekwonu was the first offensive lineman to come off the board in this year's draft. Just after the Panthers selected him at No. 6, Alabama's Evan Neal was picked up by the New York Giants (No. 7) and Mississippi State's Charles Cross was called by the Seattle Seahawks (No. 9).

For years the Panthers have struggled to find a consistent starter at the left tackle position. Based on this signing, it's clear that the Carolina organization hopes Ekwonu can remedy that situation.

Ekwonu is the fourth draft pick to sign with the Panthers, joining defensive end Amare Barno, offensive lineman Cade Mays and cornerback Kalon Barnes.