Panthers sign third-round pick LB Anderson

The Carolina Panthers have signed third-round draft choice James Anderson, an outside linebacker from Virginia Tech, to a three-year, $1.567 million contract.

The 88th player chosen overall, Anderson is the second of Carolina's eight choices in the 2006 draft to come to terms on a contract, and only the seventh first-day player leaguewide to strike an agreement. There is now one first-rounder, four second-round players and two in the third round to have completed contracts.

Anderson received a signing bonus of $487,200 and minimum base salaries for all three seasons. He got one of the few three-year contracts consummated so far in a slow signing period. Most teams are signing their selections outside of the first round to four-year contracts, the maximum term permitted under the recent extension to the collective bargaining agreement.

Despite the additions of veteran linebackers Na'il Diggs and Keith Adams in free agency, Anderson will have an opportunity to contribute as a rookie, because his speed and athleticism make him a terrific fit for the style of defense the Panthers employ. He will be in the mix for playing time at weakside linebacker and, even if he doesn't win the starting job, could earn considerable playing time in nickel situations.

Carolina lost both its starting outside linebackers from a year ago, Will Witherspoon and Brandon Short, in free agency this spring. The Panthers will rebuild around standout middle linebacker Dan Morgan.

A two-year starter at Virginia Tech, Anderson finished his career with 219 tackles, including 18 tackles for losses, seven sacks, three interceptions and four forced fumbles. At 6-feet-3 and 229 pounds, Anderson is a long, lean athlete with fluid movement skills.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.