Monthly Archives: January 2021

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WTVD) — The Buffalo Bills are heading to the AFC Championship for the first time since 1994, two years before quarterback Josh Allen was born, after a 17-3 win over the Ravens.

If you’re a Carolina Panthers fan, you’re probably not happy about the Bills success or should I say the success of ‘Carolina North.’

What do I mean by Carolina North? Over the past few years, the Bills have taken the Panther’s scraps. For starters, Buffalo’s head coach Sean McDermott and General Manager Brandon Beane both came from Carolina in 2017.

Since then, they’ve brought more than 20 players from Carolina to Buffalo and not just any players but ones that have become key pieces to this season’s success.

Right now, there are 8 active Bills players with Carolina ties. Mario Addison, Vernon Butler, Cheap Josh Norman Jersey, Daryl Williams, AJ Klein, Dean Marlowe, Cheap Andre Smith Jersey and Bryan Cox Jr.

It’s not just players either but coaches, scouts and video personnel.

Was it wrong to let all of these people reunite in Buffalo?

Did the Panthers make a mistake?

I’m not saying that if the Panthers had found a way to make it work and keep some of these guys that they’d be the ones heading to the Conference Championship, but I’m also not not saying that.

Since 2017, the Panthers have only had one winning season going 11-5 in 2017 losing in the wild card round of the playoffs. Then in 2018 went 7-9 and finished 5-11 the past two seasons.

The Buffalo Bills have had three winning seasons since 2017 in 2017 (9-7), 2019 (10-6) and they’re currently 13-3 this season.

Call it a curse, call it a coincidence but I’m just calling it how I see it.

The Bills will face the winner of the Browns and Chiefs game next Sunday in the AFC Championship Game with a chance to play in the Super Bowl.

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is inactive for their meaningless regular-season finale against the Los Angeles Chargers, which means he will finish with 4,740 yards, 38 touchdowns and six interceptions.

It also means Chad Henne will start his first game since September 2014 with Cheap Matt Moore Jersey backing him up.

Also inactive for the Chiefs, who have wrapped up the No. 1 seed in the AFC and its first-round playoff bye, are wide receivers Tyreek Hill (hamstring) and Sammy Watkins (calf), running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire (ankle), linebacker Ben Niemann (hamstring) and right tackle Mike Remmers (back). Strong safety Tyrann Mathieu is a healthy scratch.

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Chiefs running back Le’Veon Bell and defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi are active despite missing practice time with knee injuries this week. So are defensive tackle Chris Jones, who needs 2 1/2 sacks to earn a $1.25 million bonus, and tight end Travis Kelce.

The Saints will be without their regular backfield with running backs Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray going on the COVID-19/reserve list earlier this week. Ty Montgomery is expected to be the Saints primary running back, although Taysom Hill could get some carries.

Carolina will also be without its top two running backs with Cheap Christian McCaffrey Jersey and Cheap Mike Davis Jersey because of injuries. McCaffrey, an All-Pro in 2019, has missed 13 games this season because of injuries. The Panthers also will be without its top pass rusher in defensive end Cheap Brian Burns Jersey and starting left tackle Cheap Russell Okung Jersey.

Receiver Larry Fitzgerald is inactive for the final game of the Arizona Cardinals’ regular season against the Los Angeles Rams.

The famed veteran receiver has a groin injury that will keep him out of what could have been his final game. The 37-year-old Fitzgerald hasn’t said whether he will play next season, and the Cards will miss the playoffs if they lose to Los Angeles.

Cardinals safety Budda Baker also is active after being listed as questionable with a neck injury.

Rams rookie running back Cam Akers is active after missing just one game with a high ankle sprain. Los Angeles already is without leading rusher Darrell Henderson and starting quarterback Jared Goff because of injuries.

Newly signed Blake Bortles will be the backup for Rams quarterback John Wolford, who will make his NFL debut.

Indy will try to make the playoffs short handed. The latest blow came Sunday afternoon when No. 3 running back Jordan Wilkins was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

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Knox highlights current Carolina Panther, D.J. Moore, as a target. The trade package laid out has the Bengals moving back to the 8th overall pick and giving up an additional mid-round pick in exchange for the electric receiver and the 5th overall selection.

“Carolina Panthers wideout Cheap D.J. Moore Jersey-who has topped 1,100 yards in each of the last two seasons-has shown himself to be a No. 1 target… Burrow would have a No. 1 receiver and an improved offensive line.”

While such a move seems out of character for the Bengals’ front office, it’s an idea worth discussing.

The logistics behind the Bengals acquiring D.J. Moore
For as good as Cincinnati’s offense looked at times with Burrow at the helm, it was clear that the unit was still missing two major components: Reliable offensive linemen and speed at receiver. The trade suggestion above addresses both.

Toner’s a Buffalo guy, so any discussion of cold weather will always be conditional for him. But the NFC Championship Game after the 1996 season was a different kind of cold, and it became another advantage for the Packers that night. Not as much of an advantage as being better at football than the second-year Panthers, who were in over their heads in many ways, but it was definitely a factor.

“It was the coldest day in the history of the world,” Panthers executive director of football staff Cheap Mark Carrier Jersey said.

He laughed afterward, but it was clear in the way he said it nearly 24 years later that it didn’t qualify as hyperbole in the moment.

When they kicked off the afternoon of Jan. 12, 1997, it was a crisp 3 degrees Fahrenheit. Don’t even get me started about Celsius, that just makes it feel colder, and no one needed any help with that on that day.

Carrier, then one of the team’s starting wide receivers, knew a little bit about being uncomfortable.

Not growing up, no; he was from a normal place (Louisiana), and then was fortunate enough to get drafted by Tampa Bay. That meant annual trips to Green Bay and Chicago as part of the old NFC Central, but at least he was a visitor, and the games in Detroit and Minnesota were inside. Signing with Cleveland as a free agent in 1993 made it his way of life, so coming to the expansion Panthers in 1995 got him back to his preferred climate.

As a guy who catches flying things and then tries to run away from people for a living, it turns out that having control of your extremities helped.

“The biggest thing was just trying to feel your fingers and your toes,” Carrier said, adding that it wasn’t nearly as simple as it sounded.

Carrier was like many players, who tried a number of methods to keep his precious hands and feet warm. Glove technology wasn’t what it is today, so many guys didn’t wear them. But everyone wore socks. Lots of socks. And then more socks. Insulated socks with heating inserts. Plastic bags over the first pair of socks, then more socks, in hopes of keeping the first pair dry (even if that did create a bit of a foot terrarium when you began to sweat).

The veteran wideout even went to the extreme of sprinkling cayenne pepper on his feet, hoping for a chemical reaction.

“That didn’t really kick in until after the game,” Carrier said with a laugh. “All I know is for three hours or however long the plane ride home was, my toes were on fire.”

Still, when he went out for warmups, he tried to minimize the conditions.

“I mean, it was a big game, and we were all so pumped, so hyped to be there in our second year,” Carrier recalled. “I said, ‘You know what, I’ll show them.’ So I get ready for pre-game warmups, and I’m going to go out there with no sleeves on, show off the guns, show them it wasn’t going to bother me.

“When I ran out of the tunnel and onto the field, I made it to about the 20-yard line and said, ‘Nope.'”

ALL ABOUT MINDSET

Carrier was like a lot of players, who tried to convince themselves it wasn’t actually that cold.

Hall of Fame outside linebacker Cheap Kevin Greene Jersey had a different plan. He simply refused to acknowledge it.

“I tried to never let playing in the cold bother me,” Greene said. “Playing in the brutal cold weather is a mindset. If you let your mind think you’re freezing, then you’ll freeze. You just have to turn the channel and move on to the next thing.”

Even among traditional football guys, Greene’s old school.

Before coming to the Panthers before the 1996 season, he worked for the Steelers, and playing cold-weather games — especially in the playoffs — was part of the ethos in Pittsburgh, so he embraced it.

Line play
That does not, however, confer immunity.

Greene laughed and said in the late stages of the NFC Championship Game, it began to dawn on him that he had been shivering for the last three hours.

“When Brett Favre starts kneeling to run out the clock, and the crowd’s going nuts, that’s when you realize it,” Greene said. “That’s when you say to yourself, ‘Man, it’s freaking unbelievably brutal cold, and I’m ready to get the heck out of here.'”

While Greene might not have let it bother him, it did a number on enough of his teammates that it was a clear edge for the Packers. Greene went on to coach in Green Bay for five years, and said they could spot when the weather conditions were in the heads of opponents.

“You could see the guys who weren’t ready for it, guys who were trying to play all bundled up, they were fighting it,” Greene said. “I mean, you can’t put enough clothes on to actually be warm when it gets like that.

“And the more gear you put on, the more it becomes a detriment to your play, it slows you down, and restricts your movement. That’s why you can’t let it be the biggest factor.”

It might have gotten to some of his teammates that day.

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Packers defensive tackle Santana Dotson told longtime Packers reporter Jason Wilde of the Wisconsin State Journal that they could see it in the Panthers’ eyes at a certain point.

“I remember early in the third quarter, it was just a typical lead or dive up the middle. I remember splitting a double-team and hitting (Panthers running back) Cheap Anthony Johnson Jersey right in the facemask — so hard it unbuckled his chinstrap and one of my gloves flew about 10 yards in the air,” Dotson said. “After that collision, you could tell in Anthony’s eyes that he felt like it was too cold for him to play that physical. That was the end of their running game.”

Robbins said that even some of the Panthers’ most physical players were reduced by the conditions, and that when they raced back to the sidelines, they made it clear.

“Listen, (outside linebacker) Cheap Lamar Lathon Jersey was a tough guy,” Robbins said. “But he was one of the guys I remember being most vocal about it. It got to a point where when he came off the field, he was very religiously saying: ‘It. Is. Too. Cold. To. Be. Playing. Football.'”

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With reports leaking out that the NFL Salary Cap might ‘only’ drop to $180 Million in 2022, the Carolina Panthers have some big decisions to make about their future. Each year’s cap is based on league earnings from the past year. 2020 obviously deflated those earnings as most teams had little to no revenue to speak of from ticket, concessions, and in-stadium merchandise sales. The Panthers are entering 2021 as a transition year for the franchise with the hope that their fortunes will improve at the same time as the league’s.

With that in mind, here are the six largest player contracts the Panthers currently have on their books for the 2021 season. Whether any of them are cut, traded, or retained, these athletes and their contracts will shape the team’s strategy as they build their 2021 roster. We won’t break down their full contracts here. Instead, let’s focus on the big picture items: their current cap hit and the dead money penalty the Panthers would incur if these players were released.

Cheap Teddy Bridgewater Jersey
Cap hit: 23,000,000

Dead money: 20,000,000

I hesitated in writing this piece at all because I know a plurality of the comments below are going to be along the lines of “Bridgewater is an overpaid bum.” Maybe this might add a little nuance to some of the concrete opinions we’ve been seeing the last few months:

Bridgewater is set to be the 15th highest paid quarterback in the NFL in 2021. His contract is a lot of money, but it also isn’t a lot of money by modern NFL quarterback standards.

Cheap Kawann Short Jersey
Cap hit: $20,839,000

Dead money: $11,017,000

Short has been with the Panthers since they selected him in the second round of the 2013 draft. He was part of a double dip in the first two rounds at defensive tackle that remade the Panthers front four in advance of their 2015 Super Bowl run. He has, unfortunately, ended the last two seasons on injured reserve with an injury to each shoulder.

His contract is currently the fourth most expensive contract for an interior defensive lineman in 2021.

Cheap Shaq Thompson Jersey
Cap hit: $14,180,000

Dead money: $9,600,000

Cheap Luke Kuechly Jersey retirement provided a stage for Thompson, and he didn’t hesitate to take it. His performance in 2020 rewarded the faith placed in Thompson by the previous brain trust behind the Carolina Panthers. His contract makes him unlikely to be playing anywhere else in 2021. He will likely be with the team until the final year of his contract (2023) when releasing him could save the team $13M.

His current contract has him as the third highest paid linebacker in the NFL for the 2021 season. He’ll be paid behind only the Seattle Seahawks Bobby Wagner and the Minnesota Vikings Anthony Barr

Which Carolina Panthers players might their former general manager Marty Hurney look to bring to the Washington Football Team during free agency?

As it turned out, Marty Hurney wasn’t out of work for long after being fired by the Carolina Panthers for a second time. The recently departed general manager is reuniting with Ron Rivera at the Washington Football Team, which is the latest in a series of old employees who have come together in a different environment.

Hurney’s second stint in Carolina was full of hits and misses. For all his faults, the man knew what a first-round NFL Draft pick looked like and even managed to find some real gems in the later rounds to further bolster the roster during a period of transition.

However, some of the personnel decisions regarding contract extensions – or a lack thereof – is something that eventually cost him his job. Whether the old pals’ act in Washington is going to bring success remains to be seen, but it’s clear that Rivera had a huge say in this hire and is willing to die on the sword, so to speak.

This might come with Hurney trying to recruit some familiar faces in the coming weeks. Let’s take a look at four Panthers who might end up in Washington this offseason.

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Player No. 1
Carolina Panthers
Kawann Short – Carolina Panthers DT
Kawann Short is going to be released by the Panthers sooner rather than later providing a shock restructure doesn’t come to pass. The defensive tackle has endured a torrid time through injury over the last two years, but if he fully recovers from his latest significant problem then a move to Washington might not be out of the question.

Rivera benefitted from a formidable defensive front during his first season at the helm. This was the catalyst behind them winning the NFC East and attaining a shock playoff berth, so adding a proven Pro Bowler like Short to this already talented group would give their depth another substantial shot in the arm.

Given how little Short has seen the field recently, he might welcome a lesser role where the wear and tear won’t be as significant and the prospect of linking up with Rivera and Hurney would be considered from the player’s perspective.

Cheap Christian McCaffrey Jersey
Cap hit: $12,537,500

Dead money: $24,937,500

With the Panthers projected to have approximately $17M in cap space in 2021, Christian McCaffrey is unlikely to be going anywhere on his own in the next year. The team will have to cross their fingers and hope that the string of injuries to his ankle, shoulder, and quad were just fluke coincidences.

He is projected to be the third highest paid running back in the NFL this season, behind the Dallas Cowboys Ezekiel Elliot and the Tennessee Titans Derrick Henry. That is mildly deceptive, however, as his average money per year shakes out to be the most of any running back contract through 2026. There is a lot to parse between McCaffrey’s contract and the Panthers recent general manager search. We’ll have more on that story later.

Cheap Robby Anderson Jersey
Cap hit: $12,000,000

Dead money: $4,000,000

Anderson is set to be the 18th highest paid wide receiver in the NFL in 2021. That is the realm of a below average starter, not a 1,000 yard receiver on a team with a shaky quarterback.

Suffice it to say that the Panthers could be poised to get good value out of their top 2020 free agency signing. That said, cutting him would save the team $8M against the cap this year. That is room they could use if they have an eye towards the future moreso than this upcoming season.

Cheap Matt Paradis Jersey
Cap hit: $10,330,000

Dead money: $5,400,000

Paradis joined the Panthers on the heels of Cheap Ryan Kalil Jersey retirement. He has been, at his worst, an above average center. He will be the seventh highest paid center in the NFL in 2021.

His is probably the safest name on this list, even if the Panthers decide to go scorched earth on this roster in Scott Fitterer’s first year as general manager (which is, just for the record, highly unlikely). Paradis is a good offensive lineman on a team without a lot of those. Yes, they could save $5M by releasing him, but they’ll never fill his shoes, or those in all of their other holes with 2.7% of the projected cap that they’d save with his release.