Panthers Have Discussed Extending DT Derrick Brown

Panthers defensive tackle Derrick Brown took a couple of seasons to find his game in the NFL but showed enough in Year 3 to warrant the pickup of the fifth-year option of his rookie contract. A year later, and a second stellar season under his belt, Brown could be headed towards a new contract extension before he even gets the chance to play on that option.

After selecting Brown seventh overall out of Auburn in 2020, Carolina held high expectations for its new starting defensive tackle. Brown delivered on expectations that he would be disruptive, racking up eight tackles for loss in each of his first two season. He also showed a talented pass rushing ability, tallying five sacks and 21 quarterback hits in those first two years. He came under fire early in his career, though, for his struggles in run defense and tackling.

Brown’s third year in the league saw tremendous improvement. While he still had his struggles tackling, he heavily improved his run defense, helping him go from the 37th-best interior defender in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), to the seventh-best. In 2023, Brown put any questions of his tackling issues to rest. Not only did he lead the league in tackles made by a defensive tackle, but Brown also set the NFL record for total tackles in a single season by an interior defender with an astounding 103.

The man was a singular vacuum in the middle of the Panthers defense, and as a result, once again improved his standing, grading out as the fourth-best interior defender in the NFL this season, per PFF, trailing only Dexter Lawrence, Aaron Donald, and Quinnen Williams, three of the league’s highest-paid defensive tackles. Whenever extension talks occur, Brown and his representation, Drew Rosenhaus, will be sure to point out that all three of the above-mentioned players are making over $20MM per year.

Those extension talks do seem to be close at hand, according to Joe Person of The Athletic, who reports that the Panthers general manager Dan Morgan has been in touch with Rosenhaus. The team exercised the 25-year-old’s fifth-year option, allowing them ample time to work out a potential extension agreement. They even lucked out, as the lack of a Pro Bowl season up to that point only qualified Brown for the third tier of the fifth-year option structure, putting his fifth-year, fully-guaranteed salary at a rather manageable $11.67MM. Brown ended up finally earning that Pro Bowl honor this year.

Unfortunately, his Pro Bowl season came one year late. The Panthers may still pursue an extension, though, attempting to lock down Brown on a long-term, potentially team-friendly deal while avoiding any potential for a holdout. His fifth-year salary is set to be about half of what the annual average value would be on a new deal, but it’s all fully guaranteed and all hitting the salary cap. An extension could help lower that cap hit and potentially reward Brown with more guaranteed money in a different structure.

Carolina has some free agents to deal with this offseason like linebacker Frankie Luvu and star pass rusher Brian Burns, so more pressing matters may be at the top of the docket right now. Still, Brown is turning into one of the league’s best at his position, turning even his early-career weaknesses into strengths as he prepares to enter a contract year. Extending him before that point should be an offseason priority.

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