Panthers Rumors

Panthers Mulling Christian McCaffrey Extension

The Panthers have internally discussed a new long-term deal for star running back Christian McCaffrey, GM Marty Hurney says (Twitter link via ESPN.com’s David Newton).

[RELATED: Panthers Aren’t Shopping Curtis Samuel]

Obviously, we’ve had internal discussions. Everybody knows what we think of Christian as a player. Other than that I can’t really say any more,” Hurney said.

McCaffrey is heading into the final year of his rookie deal, though the Panthers still hold a fifth-year option on him for the 2021 season. It’s no secret that the Panthers want to keep CMC for the long haul, but they don’t necessarily have to rush things, either.

The Panthers will have to weigh CMC’s performance and massive potential against the past perils of running back contracts. In the summer of 2018, the Rams handed Todd Gurley a four-year, $60MM deal to make him the highest-paid RB in the NFL. At the time, Gurley was fresh off of winning the league’s Offensive Player of the Year trophy. Less than two years later, the Rams released him outright. That’s just the latest example of a high-priced RB deal going south and no tailback is immune from the risk of injury – that includes McCaffrey.

CMC, who won’t turn 24 until June, earned his first career Pro Bowl and First-Team All-Pro selections in 2019. Even though the Panthers struggled on the whole, he managed 1,387 rushing yards off of 287 carries, good for an average of 4.8 yards per tote. And, for good measure, he added another 116 catches for 1,005 yards receiving. All together, he scored 19 touchdowns on the year.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Brees, Kuechly, O’Brien

Saints coach Sean Payton might’ve accidentally let some big news slip this week. Appearing on ESPN’s ‘Get Up,’ Payton said “the unique situation with our team and quarterback Drew Brees, he’s announced he’s coming back for his final season,” via Katherine Terrell of The Athletic. When Brees elected not to retire this offseason, he said he’d be taking things year by year and didn’t make any official proclamations about this being his last campaign.

Either Payton misspoke, or he let the cat out of the bag. We’ve heard for a while now that the Saints eventually want Taysom Hill to take over as the starting quarterback, and that they plan on utilizing Hill even more this coming season. All the moves they’ve made so far point to one last run with Brees, so it would make sense if he has in fact told them this is his final ride. They’ve signed a 32-year-old Malcolm Jenkins and a 33-year-old Emmanuel Sanders, so they’re clearly all-in on 2020.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Speaking of NFC South retirements, Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly surprisingly decided to hang up his cleats this offseason. Interestingly, Carolina still hasn’t officially placed him on the reserve/retired list, according to Joseph Person of The Athletic. Before fans get excited, that’s likely because the Panthers can add $6MM in cap space by waiting until after June 1st to make the move, Person notes. Additionally, a source close to the former Defensive Player of the Year told Person that he has had “no second thoughts” about his decision to retire. We’ve heard the former All-Pro could be eyeing a coaching/consulting gig, and Person writes he has also explored broadcasting opportunities. Kuechly is still only 28, so there’s plenty of time for him to change his mind about his playing career.
  • Texans coach Bill O’Brien caught a lot of flak for his trade of Deandre Hopkins and what he was able to get back in return, and he sought to explain himself a bit Friday. “It was in the best interest of our team. DeAndre Hopkins was a great football player. We loved DeAndre Hopkins He had three years left on his deal and he wanted a raise. David Johnson is going to be a great addition to our football team,” O’Brien said, via Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link). O’Brien seemed to confirm that Hopkins’ desire to sweeten his deal was a driving force behind the shocking trade. It’ll be very interesting to see how O’Brien handles the locker room and growing backlash from the fanbase.

NFC Contract Details: Funchess, Blythe, Redskins, Cardinals

We’ve got a handful of contract details to pass along. We’ll start with the latest NFC notes, all via Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle on Twitter:

  • Devin Funchess, WR (Packers): One year, $2.5MM. Includes $3.75MM in receptions, receiving yards, touchdowns incentives.
  • Austin Blythe, OL (Rams): One year. Worth $3.9MM, including $3.5MM guaranteed. $950K signing bonus, $2.95MM salary (of which $2.55MM is guaranteed).
  • Peyton Barber, RB (Redskins): Two year, $3MM. Includes $600K signing bonus. Salaries: $910K (2020), $1.14MM (2021). $150K per-game maximum roster bonus in 2020, $199K+ per-game maximum roster bonus in 2021.
  • Nate Orchard, LB (Redskins): Re-signed. One-year, $1.047MM deal. Includes $137.5K signing bonus, $910K salary.
  • Seth Roberts, WR (Panthers): One year, $3.75MM. Includes $600K signing bonus, $3.1MM salary, $50K workout bonus.
  • Marcus Gilbert, OT (Cardinals): One year, $3.75MM. $1.05MM base salary (of which only $150K is guaranteed). Up to $2.7MM in playing time incentives.
  • Max Garcia, OL (Cardinals): Re-signed. One-year, $1.25MM deal, including $600K guaranteed. Up to $190K per-game maximum roster bonus, up to $1MM in playing time incentives.
  • Cameron Fleming, OL (Giants): Signed. One-year, $3.5MM deal (as opposed to previously-reported one-year, $4MM deal). Includes $2MM guaranteed. Up to $500K per-game roster bonus, up to $500K playing time incentives.
  • Kerry Hyder, DE (49ers): One year. $1.5MM, including $550K guaranteed. Up to $250K in per-game roster bonus.

Panthers Not Shopping Curtis Samuel

The Panthers signed not only Robby Anderson but also Seth Roberts and Keith Kirkwood in free agency. Considering the high-profile players who have left the team this offseason, it would certainly not surprise if the Panthers looked to deal one of their Ron Rivera-era wide receivers.

While Matt Rhule‘s Panthers are believed to be open for business, they do not have Curtis Samuel on the trade block presently, Joseph Person of The Athletic notes (subscription required). The Panthers are interested in keeping as many weapons as possible around for Teddy Bridgewater, Person adds.

Samuel is entering his contract year. The 2017 second-round pick now profiles as Carolina’s No. 3 wideout — behind Anderson and D.J. Moore. Considering Samuel’s $1.2MM 2020 salary, he would generate interest — even on a market that has seen the 2020 rookie receiver class affect veteran wideouts’ stock.

Samuel is coming off his best season, having caught a career-high 54 passes for 627 yards and six touchdowns. He has also contributed as a gadget-type player, logging 31 touches in the run game in his career.

This stands to be a key year for the Ohio State product, with Moore likely residing higher in Carolina’s extension queue and Anderson having an extensive history with Rhule from their Temple days. Samuel could be playing for a 2021 free agency payday. But for now, he will be expected to serve as an auxiliary option for Bridgewater in Joe Brady‘s offense.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Contract Details: Anderson, Pennel, Alexander

A handful of contract details to pass along:

Contract Details: Davis, Roberts, Haeg

Let’s take a closer look at the details of a few recently-signed free agent contracts:

AFC

NFC

  • Sean Davis, S (Redskins): One year, $4MM. $2MM guaranteed (Twitter link via John Keim of ESPN.com).
  • Seth Roberts, WR (Panthers): One year, $3.75MM (Twitter link via Mike Garafolo of ESPN.com).
  • Zach Kerr, DT (Panthers): Two years, $3MM. Unknown incentives available (Twitter link via Garafolo).
  • B.J. Goodson, LB (Browns): One year, $2.4MM. $2.25MM guaraneed. $1.25MM signing bonus (Twitter link via Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com).
  • Joe Haeg, T (Buccaneers): One year, $2.3MM. $1.5MM guaranteed. Up to $1MM available via playtime incentives (Twitter link via Wilson).
  • Cedric Ogbuehi, T (Seahawks): One year, $2.3MM. $500K guaranteed. $500K signing bonus (Twitter link via Brady Henderson of ESPN.com).
  • Will Parks, S (Eagles): One year, $1.5MM. $1.375MM guaranteed. $375K signing bonus. Up to $125K in per-game roster bonuses (Twitter link via Wilson).
  • Tajae Sharpe, WR (Vikings): One year, $1MM. $675K guaranteed. $175K signing bonus. Max value of $1.5MM (Twitter link via Pelissero).
  • Sharrod Neasman, S (Falcons): One year, $950K. $40K signing bonus. Veteran salary benefit (Twitter link via Wilson).
  • Joe Walker, LB (49ers): One year, $900K. Max of $75K in per-game roster bonuses (Twitter link via Wilson).

NFC South Notes: Hill, Brate, Walker

The Saints expect Taysom Hill to take over for Drew Brees when Brees calls it a career, and to that end, they placed a first-round RFA tender on the BYU product earlier this month. Teddy Bridgewater had served as the backup to Brees over the past couple of seasons while Hill’s role as a gadget player grew, but head coach Sean Payton confirmed that Hill will be the QB2 in 2020. “He’s earned that opportunity,” Payton said (Twitter link via Jeff Duncan of The Athletic).

However, the team still expects to use Hill as a rusher and receiver next season, so Payton said New Orleans will add another QB that will be active on game days (Twitter link via Duncan). The Saints are expected to explore a long-term contract for Hill in the near future.

Now for more from the NFC South:

  • Cameron Brate‘s recent restructure with the Buccaneers is better classified as a pay cut. Per Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times, Brate accepted a decrease in his 2020 salary from $6MM to $4.25MM (Twitter link). The move will keep Brate, a quality red zone target, in the fold for Tom Brady while buying the team a little more cap space.
  • Several days ago, the Panthers beat out several clubs for the services of XFL signal-caller P.J. Walker. Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle says Walker’s pact with Carolina is a two-year deal worth $1.565MM, a pretty nice haul for an XFLer who has yet to crack an active roster in the NFL (Twitter link).
  • CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson‘s new one-year deal with the Falcons includes a base salary of $1.05MM and a singing bonus of $137.5K, as Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com tweets.

Panthers Sign DT Zach Kerr, WR DeAndrew White

The Panthers bid adieu to defensive linemen Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe this offseason, and now they’ve added a reinforcement. Carolina has signed former Colts, Broncos, and Cardinals DT Zach Kerr, as ESPN’s Field Yates tweets.

Kerr entered the league as a UDFA in 2014, and he showed enough in camp and preseason that year to make Indianapolis’ 53-man roster. He stuck around for three seasons as a rotational player and was signed by the Broncos after the Colts decided against giving him an RFA tender. He played for two years in Denver and actually signed another two-year deal with the team last March, but he did not survive final cutdowns.

He caught on with the Cardinals in October and ended up playing 12 games (three starts) for Arizona. He finished the season with solid marks from Pro Football Focus, which considered him about as effective as notables like Brandon Williams and Leonard Williams (though he saw significantly fewer snaps). He is currently slated to team up with Kawann Short on the Panthers’ defensive front, but it would not be surprising to see the club use an early draft pick on a DT.

Per Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic, the Panthers are also bringing back WR DeAndrew White on a one-year deal (Twitter link). White opened the 2019 season on Carolina’s practice squad and earned a promotion to the 53-man roster in October. He caught four passes for 51 yards and returned 10 kickoffs.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Panthers, Robby Anderson Agree To Deal

On an afternoon featuring action on the wideout market, the top prize is now committed to a team. Robby Anderson will sign with the Panthers, Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News reports (on Twitter).

It’s a two-year, $20MM deal for the four-year Jets contributor, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. Anderson will receive $12MM in 2020. Like P.J. Walker, Anderson is a Temple alum and spent most of his Owls tenure playing for new Panthers HC Matt Rhule.

Anderson adds a weapon to an intriguing Carolina skill-position corps that already includes Christian McCaffrey, D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel. The Jets had hoped to re-sign Anderson, and the four-year Jet wanted to stay. But the Jets preferred Anderson return for a price, and it appears the Panthers exceeded said price.

Anderson will also reunite with Teddy Bridgewater, his brief teammate during the 2018 offseason. Walker, however, was Anderson’s quarterback while at Temple. The Panthers signed Bridgewater and released Cam Newton on Tuesday. Interestingly, Bridgewater’s skill group looks far better than the one Newton took to Super Bowl 50. The Panthers saved $19MM by cutting Newton, helping them afford Anderson.

A New Jersey native, Anderson became one of the league’s premier deep threats despite going undrafted in 2016. He developed a rapport with Sam Darnold, but the Jets often struggled to assemble an aerial corps around Anderson. Still, the 26-year-old talent topped 750 receiving yards in three straight seasons and eclipsed 900 with Josh McCown running the show in 2017. Anderson averaged between 14.9 and 15.0 yards per reception from 2017-19.

While Anderson has encountered off-field trouble, he now has an eight-figure-AAV contract and will have the chance to re-enter free agency in his 20s.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Panthers Release Cam Newton

The Panthers’ efforts to trade Cam Newton evidently did not take off. They are expected to release the former MVP as soon as Tuesday, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. Carolina made the move official Tuesday afternoon.

While the Panthers attempted to deal Newton to the Bears and Chargers, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets, they could not find a taker. Newton had one season remaining on a deal he signed back in 2015. He was set to earn $18.6MM in 2020 base salary; Carolina will take on just $2MM in dead money for releasing Newton but clear $19.1MM in cap space. The Bears subsequently traded for Nick Foles instead, and the Chargers appear focused on the draft. After pursuing Tom Brady, the Bolts no longer intend to add a veteran quarterback.

A Newton release was the expected outcome, given the unique complications this offseason presents for the Panthers to trade their three-time Pro Bowl passer. This will end a nine-year run for Newton in Charlotte. The move also comes less than a month after Matt Rhule indicated he wanted to keep Newton for the 2020 season. Carolina moved swiftly in another direction after that pronouncement.

The No. 1 overall pick in 2011, Newton fairly quickly solidified himself as the best quarterback in Panthers history. He helped the Panthers to four playoff berths in a five-season span and piloted them to Super Bowl 50 in 2015. However, injuries intervened in the late 2010s and will lead the former superstar to the open market for the first time.

Newton, 30, is recovering from the Lisfanc surgery he underwent in December. The NFL’s all-time QB rushing-touchdown king has not been fully healthy since early in the 2018 season, when he suffered a shoulder injury. Newton is not expected to be game-ready for months.

Considering the changes the COVID-19 pandemic has made to this NFL offseason, Newton could be in limbo. Teams are not permitted to host free agents on visits, and while third-party doctors can still examine players, any franchise signing off on a Newton contract would probably want to put its medical staff to work on the injury-prone passer.

Because of this strange scenario, the Panthers were able to pry a fifth-rounder from the Redskins for Kyle Allen on Monday and will be forced to release Newton. Carolina’s quarterback depth chart now sits at Teddy BridgewaterP.J. WalkerWill Grier. The Panthers officially signed Walker on Tuesday morning. Bridgewater signed his three-year, $63MM deal Monday night, and David Newton of ESPN.com notes the Panthers will not carry both Bridgewater and Newton’s salaries. The Newton-to-Bridgewater transition will begin Tuesday.

Newton had regressed considerably since the Panthers’ Super Bowl 50 loss, ranking 30th in QBR since 2016, but the nine-year veteran showed promise in Norv Turner‘s offense early in 2018 certainly would have brought back a trade package of some sort in a normal NFL offseason. The former Heisman winner now must continue his rehab on his own and do so in one of the most uncertain times to go about a rehab effort. The NFL may well end up canceling all offseason activities due to conoravirus-related uncertainty, so it might be difficult for Newton to land a noteworthy contract for the 2020 season.

Carolina will have parted ways with Newton, Greg Olsen, Luke Kuechly, Trai Turner and Mario Addison this offseason. Rhule’s team will certainly look different when the Panthers are permitted to reconvene under their new coach.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.