Cap Situation Keeping Cats Quiet

A week before free agency opened, the Carolina Panthers were among the teams over the NFL's salary cap, forcing a few cuts and restructures. That's limited much of what they were going to do in the market -- though it wasn't going to be much anyway.

A week before free agency opened, the Carolina Panthers were among the teams over the NFL's salary cap, forcing a few cuts and restructures.

That's limited much of what they were going to do in the market -- though it wasn't going to be much anyway.

The bigger moves are ones they'll make with their own players, and two of their key offensive cogs are at pivot points going into this season.

Both wide receiver Steve Smith and running back Jonathan Stewart are entering the final years of their contracts, and present different issues for the Panthers' front office.

Smith has spent his entire career here, and had a huge comeback season at age 32 thanks to the addition of quarterback Cam Newton. He caught 79 balls for 1,394 yards and seven touchdowns last year, his best season since 2008 when the Panthers went 12-4.

He's also well aware the Panthers have taken care of older stars in the past (quarterback Jake Delhomme), and knows this is his last chance at a pay day.

He'll make $7.75 million in base salary this year, and the Panthers could easily engineer an extension to knock this year's cap number down. The bigger question is how long to invest in him, though last year's form indicates he's got productive football left.

The Panthers have numerous candidates to be a No. 2 (Brandon LaFell and David Gettis), but neither have shown to be the kind of take-over-a-game player Smith has been throughout his career.

Stewart's future was cast in doubt when the Panthers signed fullback Mike Tolbert, but the Panthers appear committed at the moment to keeping all their backs. They just signed soon-to-be 29-year-old DeAngelo Williams to a lucrative extension last year (as part of the insulate the rookie quarterback plan).

The running back market is depressed, but the fact is, once Ray Rice and Matt Forte were franchised, there weren't many backs worth spending money on. Stewart hasn't put up the kind of gross numbers Rice or Forte did because of the Panthers' carry-sharing arrangement, but his talent is undisputed, after averaging 5.4 yards per rush last year, while also catching 47 passes.

Would they hang onto him through this year, and then choose between keeping him long-term at the expense of Williams? Possibly. But the idea that they'll trade him in the short term doesn't fit their philosophy.

This is still the management team that franchised defensive end Julius Peppers before letting him eventually walk into free agency, taking the third-round compensatory pick rather than moving him for what they perceived as less than his value. And with few people lining up to give big deals to backs, it might be hard to get more than the compensatory value now.

PantherInsider.com Recommended Stories


  • Peyton Manning emerged alone atop yet another category in the NFL record book tonight vs the Niners, as he tossed touchdown #509 under the national spotlight of Sunday Night Football (NBC). (Photo…

  • Former USC and NFL running back LenDale White added tons of drama to what was a relatively quiet Homecoming weekend for the Trojans.

  • Here’s a way to watch football and improve your golf swing at the same time. In your living room (or on the range), practice the one-minute golf swing, as shown in this video. Set the timer on your…

  • Dr. Roto, like many others, can't believe Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson (pictured above) passed for over 300 yards and rushed for over 100 yards in the same game. First time that's ever happened…

  • As soon as those winds fall off, get into the stand! I always tell people you can't kill them if you aren't out, but if you want to try and pick an opportune time – this is it.

Up Next


The Panthers have a chance to become the only team in NFL history with three players with 700 or…

Forums


0 Fans online
    Join The Conversation

    Tweets