The Panthers have restructured star linebacker Luke Kuechly‘s contract by converting $6.8MM of his salary into a signing bonus, per ESPN’s Field Yates (Twitter link). The move gives Kuechly, who is coming off his fourth First Team All-Pro nod, a nice influx of cash while also creating $5.1MM of cap space for Carolina this year.
Kuechly remains under club control through 2021, and while teams generally do not like to convert salary into signing bonus, as it makes it more difficult to cut ties with a player before his contract expires, it seems unlikely that Carolina will want to move on from Kuechly anytime soon. Although the Boston College product has missed a number of games due to concussions, and although he has had surgery on both of his shoulders — indeed, he has not played a full 16-game season since 2014 — he remains the best inside linebacker in the game.
The 27-year-old will once again anchor the middle of the Panthers’ defense in 2018. Carolina made the playoffs last season and is hoping for a return trip this year, but the team’s offensive line is a major cause for concern at the moment. Indeed, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com reports (via Twitter) that LT Matt Kalil is likely to miss at least the first three games of the regular season, and the Panthers have already placed RT Daryl Williams on injured reserve. Plus, left guard Amini Silatolu is dealing with a torn meniscus.
As such, Carolina could use some of its newfound cap space on an offensive lineman or two, and it could also look to upgrade its backup QB and safety situation. Theoretically, the Panthers could also look into an extension for wide receiver Devin Funchess.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.