Panthers make flurry of roster moves with Austin Corbett activated, Jeremy Chinn to IR

The Panthers are getting back a major contributor as they return from their Week 7 bye.

Right guard Austin Corbett (ACL) was activated off the physically unable to perform (PUP) list on Tuesday as the Panthers prepare to face off against the Houston Texans on Sunday at Bank of America Stadium.

Corbett, arguably Carolina’s best offensive player last season, missed the entirety of training camp and the preseason and the first six matchups of the regular season after sustaining a major knee injury in last season’s finale against the New Orleans Saints.

With Corbett, 28, sidelined, the Panthers have had a turnstile at the right guard position with rookie Chandler Zavala, second-year lineman Cade Mays and waiver-wire pickup Calvin Throckmorton manning the position. Fellow starting guard Brady Christensen sustained a season-ending biceps injury in Week 1, so the left guard spot has also been in flux with Zavala and Mays filling in next to left tackle Ickey Ekwonu.

Carolina Panthers guard Austin Corbett (63) during an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Tyler Kaufman)
Carolina Panthers guard Austin Corbett (63) during an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Tyler Kaufman)

Corbett’s return not only upgrades the right guard position but it also solidifies a clear weakness within a struggling offensive line. Corbett’s reemergence, in theory, should positively impact both the run and pass offense.

But while the Panthers are getting Corbett back, they are going to be without a trio of contributors for at least the next four games. The team placed defensive back Jeremy Chinn (quadriceps), tight end Giovanni Ricci (shoulder) and pass rusher Yetur Gross-Matos (hamstring) on injured reserve.

Chinn was the team’s big nickel corner, but he received inconsistent playing time during the first six games of the season. He sustained his quadriceps injury against the Miami Dolphins in Week 6.

Gross-Matos, a fellow Matt Rhule-era holdover, was among the most improved players on the team before he sustained an injury against Miami. Ricci’s absence will limit the tight end depth to Hayden Hurst, Tommy Tremble and Stephen Sullivan over the next three weeks, as Ian Thomas was placed on injured reserve in Week 6.

Panthers fill open roster spots

With two open roster spots, the Panthers agreed to terms with a pair of players on different practice squads. The Panthers are set to add pass rusher Luiji Vilain from the Minnesota Vikings’ practice squad and offensive tackle Brett Toth from the Philadelphia Eagles’ practice squad.

Vilain, 25, will look to earn playing time behind the likes of Brian Burns, Justin Houston, Amare Barno and DJ Johnson. The former undrafted free agent has appeared in four career games since entering the league in 2022. Despite only playing 34 career snaps on defense, the Ottawa, Ontario, native, has worked 74 reps on special teams and could contribute in that phase immediately.

The 6-foot-4, 252-pound pass rusher split his college career between Michigan (2017 to 2020) and Wake Forest (2021). The Canadian-born linebacker was a 2021 third-round pick in the CFL Draft, but he chose to try his luck in the NFL as an undrafted rookie with the Vikings. He has been with Minnesota since joining the NFL.

Toth has worked as a swing tackle and utility lineman for the Eagles since 2020. The Army alum has been cross-trained at guard and center during the past few years and appeared in 17 games from 2020 to 2021 for the Philadelphia franchise. Toth, 27, is a native of Charleston, S.C.

Along with the activity on the 53-man roster, the Panthers also released veteran guard Justin McCray from the practice squad. McCray, a longtime James Campen pupil, appeared in two games this season for Carolina.