As the Panthers and Panther fans turn our attention to the “off-season,” it is important to take a look at the salary cap situation and potential re-signings. Knowing these variables will set the stage for how much shopping this team can do in free agency. That in turn, will set the table for the draft. C3 will be once again putting out our Draft Guide, so let the speculation begin. First, though, let’s take a look at the salary cap situation for 2017. Finally, something to cheer about:
Salary Cap Projections:
According to Overthecap.com, the Panthers will have $40.5M in free space against a projected $166M cap. There will be a carryover amount that will be announced in February. The Panthers carried over roughly $3M a year ago and the League average was $6.4M in carryover money. So I’m going to project the Panthers will be working with a $170M number. Here are three players that could be released to carve out more money to be used in other ways:
When J Stew plays like he did vs. the Redskins, this team is dynamic and Cam is a lot better. The problem is those games are way too infrequent. He has had only one game this year with more than 100 yards. He has a total of 759 yards with eight touchdowns. Even though I love what he has meant to this organization, that production level is simply not worthy of being the fifth highest paid player on the team, which he would be at $8.25M. Finally, the Panthers would save money by releasing J Stew. The team would save $4.75M in cap space should the Panthers look elsewhere.
The Panthers will save $2M by moving out of the Ed Dickson era. You may be asking yourself how the Panthers could possibly part ways with the 10 receptions for 134 yards and that one TD that he has put up so far in 2016. Seriously, I can’t even type that without laughing. Sorry if that hurts Mr. Dickson’s feelings, but come on man, catch the ball.
I really like Andy Lee and he is a very good punter. But Michael Palardy has proven to be very capable, and could be signed for much less than Lee’s $3.4M cap savings. Granted, we gave up a fourth round pick to take Lee, so Gettleman may feel obliged to keep him. And honestly, I would not mind keeping Lee, but saving $2M on your punter could mean having a solid depth in other places.
Other candidates to fall due to cap-savings potential are: Graham Gano, who would save the Panthers $3.1M, Michael Oher (if he retires) would save $2.5M and Paul Soliai, who would also save $2.5M. I am going to project $9M being free up in some combination of the above cap moves. That leaves a projected cap space in 2017 for the Panthers of $53M. Take into account the common and prudent practice of leaving $5M in space should the need to sign players mid-season arise, I’m looking at how the Panthers should/could spend roughly $48M in cap space. Before looking at free agents from other teams, the Panthers will look to lock their own key players.
The team has to keep their young core intact and that will require a lot money. There are 11 Free Agents on the current Roster. Mario Addison has suddenly become a top priority as he has become the Panthers best edge-rusher and is set to hit Free Agency. Ted Ginn, for all of his ups and downs, has been the Panthers best wide receiver this year and I look for him to be back. AJ Klein will be offered a healthy contract to add insurance against what we all don’t want to talk about regarding Luke. Of course, KK Short will soak up a lot of space. Other names of note are Charles Johnson (who I want back at a reduced rate), Mike Remmers (who I don’t want back unless he is depth), and Teddy Williams. These things are hard to predict, but I’m guessing that there are other players that the team will hope to lock up early and those players are names like Andrew Norwell, Trai Turner, Star Lotulelei. I’d make Kelvin earn it next year and would not consider signing him early. But make no mistake, taking care of our own will be a priority over free agents from other teams.
Summing Things Up
As one can see, there is a lot to take into account when it comes to team priorities and it will be an interesting off season, and it is one that Gettleman cannot afford to mess up. It will take as much as $30M in my estimation to keep their priorities in 2017.
So what to do with the remaining space? We’ll take a deep look at potential Free Agents from other teams as we get closer, as it tends to be a waste of time to dream about big names when in most cases, the big names are re-signed or franchised. I will mention three names that intrigue me at this point and is plausible that they won’t be re-signed by their teams. Eric Berry and Dontari Poe are top notch players that the Chiefs most likely can’t afford. And how about a family reunion by signing Ryan Kalil’s brother to play Tackle? Worth looking into. Regardless, the next several months are going to be fun and will not be an off-season as there is a lot of work to do.