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Star Lotuelei, Carolina Panthers strike rookie contract

The Carolina Panthers drafted their defensive tackle tandem of the future in the first two rounds last month. Now both players are under contract.

The Panthers have agreed to terms with No. 14 overall pick Star Lotulelei, according to Rep 1 Sports. The team announced earlier in the day that No. 44 overall pick Kawann Short had signed a four-year contract.

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If all goes as planned, Lotulelei and Short will become defensive building blocks, bringing complementary skill sets to the Panthers' defensive line. Once viewed as a potential top-five pick, Lotulelei's stock dropped, apparently because of concerns about pass-rushing ability and a heart-efficiency scare at the NFL Scouting Combine. On the positive side, Lotulelei was billed as the strongest run defender in the draft, with the ability to occupy multiple defenders and make plays in the backfield.

In contrast to Lotulelei, the Panthers viewed Short as the best pass-rushing defensive tackle in the draft despite his inconsistent motor at Purdue.

Lotulelei and Short are expected to play in a rotation with veteran defensive tackle Dwan Edwards and 2011 third-round pick Sione Fua. With linebacker Jon Beason returning from an injury that cost him much of last season and Luke Kuechly playing at a Pro Bowl level, the Panthers should have one of the NFL's most improved front sevens this season.

Follow Chris Wesseling on Twitter @ChrisWesseling.

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