The last Panther left from the team’s Super Bowl 50 lineup, Shaq Thompson has started all six Carolina games this season. The Ron Rivera-era investment is the franchise’s longest-tenured starter by two seasons.
As Carolina transitions away from its Matt Rhule period, Thompson is a player that could be moved. The Panthers are willing to listen to trade offers for the eighth-year linebacker, Albert Breer of SI.com notes. Thompson joins Christian McCaffrey, the team’s longest-tenured offensive starter, in being mentioned as a trade chip for the retooling team.
Brian Burns and D.J. Moore continue to generate the most interest, per Breer (on Twitter), but the team appears set against moving its top pass rusher and wide receiver. Burns remains on a rookie contract, while Moore just signed an extension in March. Thompson’s second contract came back in 2019 — a four-year, $54.16MM deal.
While Burns and Moore’s statuses stop the Panthers short of a full-on firesale, the presences of McCaffrey and Thompson on the trade block — after Robbie Anderson was dealt — make this one of the more interesting pre-deadline situations in recent years.
Like McCaffrey, Thompson could appeal as a 2022 trade piece due to a restructure agreement. To create cap space earlier this year, Carolina reduced Thompson’s base salary to $1.12MM. A team that acquired the 28-year-old linebacker would be responsible for less than $800K of his veteran-minimum wage. Thompson’s contract arrangement is somewhat similar to McCaffrey’s, only the defender’s future nonguaranteed salaries only run through 2023 rather than 2025. Thompson is due $12.36MM next year.
The Panthers trading Thompson now would cost them $11.27MM in dead money while saving barely $1MM. But the 95-game starter could produce additional draft assets that would make such a hit more palatable to a Panthers team not in position to contend this season.
Brought in to play alongside Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis, Thompson joined the acclaimed duo as a rookie-year starter — albeit in a non-three-down capacity — during the team’s 15-1 2015 season. Kuechly’s unexpected retirement following the 2019 campaign thrust Thompson into an anchor role on Carolina’s defensive second level, and he has displayed decent durability both before and after that role change came to pass. The Washington alum has never missed more than three games in a season.
Pro Football Focus ranks Thompson as a top-five linebacker against the run this year. Although Thompson has 11.5 career sacks and three 100-plus-tackle seasons, he has never made a Pro Bowl. He joins Rhule pickups Cory Littleton and Frankie Luvu as the team’s primary linebackers. Considering Littleton’s one-year deal and Thompson’s high 2023 cap number, linebacker stands to be one of the Panthers’ needs next year.