Panthers To Retain RB Miles Sanders, Likely To Sign CB Stephon Gilmore

The Panthers made Jonathon Brooks the first running back off the board in this weekend’s draft, trading two fifth-round picks to move up six spots in the second round to select the former Texas standout. However, the Brooks pick does not impact RB Miles Sanders‘ standing with the team.

As first-year GM Dan Morgan said, “we love Miles. We see a big role for him. He can do a lot for our offense. He’s versatile in the pass game and he’s a really good runner. So we’re excited about him, as well” (via Joseph Person of The Athletic (subscription required)).

New head coach Dave Canales added, “all these guys (Brooks, Sanders, and Chuba Hubbard) are going to play. Look at the history of league. Every team I’ve been on, we used all of our running backs at different points because it’s such a violent position.”

Sanders, who will turn 27 this week, slogged through a miserable 2023, his first year in Charlotte after he parlayed a strong tenure with the Eagles into a four-year, $25MM contract with the Panthers last March (he was the only RB to secure a contract over three years in length last offseason, and his $6.25MM AAV was tops among all running backs who received more than a one-year term). His signing was championed by former HC Frank Reich and assistant head coach/running backs coach Duce Staley, but when Reich and Staley were fired in November, Sanders’ role diminished.

In 16 games last season, the 2022 Pro Bowler handled 129 carries for 432 yards, which amounted to a poor 3.3 yards-per-carry average. He did catch 27 passes for 154 yards, but he scored just one total touchdown. In fairness, the Panthers’ offense as a whole was an unmitigated disaster in 2023, finishing last in the league in both yards and points, and it stands to reason that the team would want to give a talented back another look in a Canales-led unit that has no place to go but up. Plus, while Carolina would actually realize some cap savings by trading Sanders, he likely has no trade value at this point given his poor showing last season and the fact that he still has three years left on his deal, with base salaries ranging between $4.02MM and $5.5MM.

On the defensive side of the ball, we heard earlier this month that Morgan was giving thought to signing cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who played for the Panthers in 2021. Morgan indicated at the time that he would revisit the matter after the draft was over.

Over the past three days, Morgan made just one CB addition, selecting Washington State defender Chau Smith-Wade in the fifth-round. As Person opines, Smith-Wade’s diminutive stature will likely force him into a slot role at the professional level, and since Donte Jackson and C.J. Henderson are no longer in the mix, the Panthers still have a need for a boundary corner to join Jaycee Horn and free agent addition Dane Jackson.

In Person’s view, it is an inevitability that the Panthers will sign Gilmore.

View Comments (3)