Carolina Panthers agree to deal with CB Eli Apple

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The Carolina Panthers have agreed to a deal with cornerback Eli Apple, the team announced Thursday.

Apple had agreed to a one-year contract with the Las Vegas Raiders on March 18, but the sides could not finalize the deal and he again became a free agent on April 2, sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Apple has shown both great potential and some inconsistency while starting 51 games over his four-year career with the New York Giants and New Orleans Saints. He has three interceptions and 33 passes defensed.

Apple could fill a big need for Carolina, a team searching for a starting cornerback opposite Donte Jackson after letting starter James Bradberry move on in free agency.

Carolina selected two corners in last month's NFL draft -- Troy Pride Jr. in the fourth round and Stantley Thomas-Oliver III in the seventh -- but was looking for more experience.

The 24-year-old Apple seemed to fit in nicely with the Saints on and off the field after being traded midway through the 2018 season. But his career got off to a more turbulent start with the Giants, who drafted him with the No. 10 pick out of Ohio State in 2016.

Apple was suspended at the end of the 2017 season for arguing with a coach, and veteran teammate Landon Collins called him a "cancer." Apple later admitted to being "embarrassed" for his conduct and mended fences with both Collins and the Giants organization.

He played well early in 2018 before he was traded to the Saints for third- and seventh-round draft picks as part of a wide roster overhaul in New York.

Apple immediately became a starter for the Saints and held the job throughout 2019 until his season ended early because of a Week 16 ankle injury.

His size and length make him an asset in man coverage, and he helped steady the Saints' defense as New Orleans finished 13-3 in both 2018 and 2019.

He was a positive locker room fit in New Orleans, where he was reunited with several former Ohio State teammates, including cornerback Marshon Lattimore, safety Vonn Bell and wide receiver Michael Thomas. But he did battle inconsistency on the field -- particularly in a 48-46 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in December -- and led the team with 11 called penalties in 2019 and 10 called penalties in 2018 (after joining the team in Week 8). He was flagged 11 times for pass interference over that span.

ESPN's David Newton contributed to this report.