The Carolina Panthers are retaining another one of their own free agents, resigning tight end Ian Thomas to a three-year deal Friday. Thomas, a 2018 fourth-round pick of the Panthers, had 18 catches for 188 yards last season -- playing 61% of the offensive snaps and starting 13 games. 

Per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, Thomas will receive $16.5 million in the three-year deal -- including $6.435 million in the first year of the contract. Thomas will receive $8 million fully guaranteed. 

With Thomas back in the fold, the Panthers retained their starting tight end from last year -- a position the franchise needs depth. Carolina also has Tommy Tremble and Colin Thomson returning, but keeping Thomas in the fold gives Carolina an extra pass-catching option. 

One of the reasons Carolina decided to bring back Thomas was the tight end-friendly system under new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo, which should increase his involvement in the passing game. Thomas has just 38 catches for 303 yards over the last two seasons, but has been a reliable blocker in the offense. 

The Panthers have 19 more unrestricted free agents they have to decide whether they are worth retaining this offseason. Clearly bringing Thomas back was a top priority.