The Panthers still have time to work out a deal with edge rusher Brian Burns, but signficant progress would need to be made for such a development to take place. A trip to free agency should not be expected in his case, though.
Burns is playing out his fifth-year option in 2023, valued at $16MM. A long-term deal will check in at a much larger figure than that, and a lucrative extension has been on Carolina’s radar for some time now. Little traction was gained this offseason, however, leaving the franchise tag as the logical backup plan for the Panthers. That is the course of action the team is expected to take at this point, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler notes.
This latest update comes as little surprise given where things currently stand. A recent report named Burns as an obvious tag candidate in the event a multi-year contract could not be worked out, and the 25-year-old has established himself as a franchise cornerstone. Carolina has turned down signficant trade interest in each of the past two seasons to retain Burns, demonstrating the team’s commitment to him in spite of his uncertain contractual future.
The two-time Pro Bowler is believed to be seeking a much higher AAV on a new deal than what the Panthers value him at. As a result, negotiations have been put on pause since the start of the season, and the passing of the trade deadline (during which at least five teams made a push to acquire him) has not spurned a new round of talks. Barring a signficant breakthrough, then, the one-year tag could loom as Carolina’s only option.
The 2024 tag for defensive ends – which Burns lined up as during the start of his career – will cost a projected $20.4MM. The tag for linebackers – which Burns would be listed as given the team’s switch to a 3-4 scheme this year – is scheduled to cost roughly $3MM less. It would be interesting to see if a compromise could be worked out between the two figures, though in any event a new contract would check in at a significantly higher rate given the upward trajectory of the edge market in recent years.
Nick Bosa‘s historic 49ers deal placed him at the top of the pecking order with an AAV of $34MM. While Burns has been connected to an asking price near that level, the Panthers are aiming closer to the $23.5MM mark Maxx Crosby is currently tied to. A pair of recent deals (Rashan Gary with the Packers, and Montez Sweat shortly upon arrival with the Bears) have been inked just above that rate. Carolina showed interest in the latter despite the fact he, like Burns, was set to see his rookie contract expire in March.
With Sweat now in Chicago for the long term, the Panthers can keep their attention on a new deal for Burns (and, potentially, a much more cost-effective contract for fellow pending free agent Yetur Gross-Matos). Carolina is currently slated to sit mid-pack in terms of 2024 cap space, but plenty of financial moves will be made between now and the new league year. By that point, Burns can be expected to at least have a placeholder contract in hand.