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
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.