Panthers Rumors

Panthers Place Luke Kuechly On Reserve/Retired List

Months after Luke Kuechly‘s retirement announcement, the Panthers officially placed the perennial All-Pro linebacker on their reserve/retired list, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.

By waiting until after June 1 to do so, the Panthers will spread out Kuechly’s $11.8MM in dead money over two years. For 2020, it will create almost $6MM in cap space for the Panthers, Joe Person of The Athletic tweets.

This will give Carolina some additional breathing room, bumping its cap-space figure north of $8MM. That will be necessary for the franchise to sign its draft class, though the Panthers have already signed first-round pick Derrick Brown.

Kuechly retired at 28, with two seasons left on his five-year, $61.8MM contract. The future Hall of Famer would have been set for a mammoth extension, with top peer Bobby Wagner taking the off-ball linebacker market to $18MM per year in 2019 and the Panthers having recently inked Shaq Thompson to a more lucrative deal than the one on which Kuechly finished his career. But Kuechly, who battled concussions in previous years, opted to walk away after eight seasons.

The Panthers attempted to address their considerable void by signing ex-Lions and Raiders starter Tahir Whitehead, who played for Matt Rhule at Temple. Although the Panthers made seven draft picks on defense, they did not use any of those selections on a linebacker.

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Panthers To Hold Training Camp At Team Facility

The Panthers have trekked to Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C., for training camp every year since the franchise’s 1995 debut. The COVID-19 pandemic will force the team to break that tradition.

This year, the Panthers will hold their training camp at the team’s facility in Charlotte, Pete Yanity of WSPA reports. The Athletic’s Joe Person confirmed (via Twitter) the team will stay home for camp and added the NFL does not want teams leaving their facilities for camps this year.

While teams have opted over the years to avoid training camp trips, some teams still leave their facilities. And four teams’ camps are based in California, where no green light to conduct camps has been given as of yet. As such, the 49ers and Cowboys — who use Oxford, Calif., as their campsite — have discussed leaving the state for camp. The NFL may be against travel of this sort, pointing to California being open for business for camps come late July and the Cowboys staying in Texas rather than packing up for their annual late-summer trip.

Earlier this month, the Panthers had hoped they could keep camp at Wofford. Owner David Tepper said last year the team’s only two options for camp were Spartanburg and in its home facility. The latter option appears to be the course of action in this historically unusual offseason.

Panthers GM Marty Hurney On Newton, McCaffrey, Rebuilding

In a recent chat with Joe Person of The Athletic, Panthers GM Marty Hurney said he did “nothing that was out of bounds” while talking with Mississippi State quarterback Tommy Stevens during the draft. If the NFL disagrees with Hurney’s assessment, the Panthers and Saints could be penalized by the league office. 

Beyond that weirdness, Hurney was also asked about the Panthers’ eventful offseason and their plans moving forward. Here’s a look at some of the highlights:

On No. 7 overall pick Derrick Brown and whether he would have traded down if Brown was gone

Every year we go into the draft, and wherever we’re picking, we have a group of guys that we would take there. Obviously, he was the guy we were hoping that would get to us, and we’re fortunate that he did…You consider everything. How you approach the draft is how you approach everything else every day: You cover every scenario. So we had all sorts of options. But it didn’t get to that point. 

On Cam Newton‘s ongoing free agency

I don’t know. I’m just focused on us and trying to get us the best we can be for this season. I can’t speak for other teams. I do have great respect for him, but I can’t answer for other teams.

On Christian McCaffrey‘s record-breaking extension

Christian’s ability and his performance as a receiver is very unique to the running back position, as you can see by the 1,000-1,000 marks that he surpassed last year. He really is a different type of running back at the position than maybe we would’ve thought of three, five, ten years ago because of his ability to create mismatches as a receiver, his ability to run between the tackles, his ability to make big plays. He really is a combination running back/wide receiver. All those things led to us — and as you said, his ability as a leader, the type of commitment that he shows, the type of person that he is, the way he comes every day to get better — all those things went into play.

On the notion of rebuilding

I approach it as one good decision at a time. Every year you have a lot of changes. I think the league average is 33 percent or so, and maybe over 60 percent every two years. Obviously, we’ve had a lot of changes, not only on the player side but the coaching side. You’re always trying to build the most competitive team you can build. I think we have gotten younger, and I think we have a good mix of veterans and young players. We’re just excited to work with them and improve every day. 

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Panthers Deny Wrongdoing In Tommy Stevens Pursuit

Last month, seventh-round pick Tommy Stevens found himself in the headlines after a strange tug-of-war between the Saints and Panthers. The Saints, after trading away their entire Day 3 haul, hoped to sign the Mississippi State quarterback as an undrafted free agent. The Saints and Panthers reportedly wound up in a bidding war for him before the conclusion of the draft, prompting Sean Payton to trade back into the draft to nab Stevens at No. 240 overall

It seems that both teams violated league rules which allow for teams to chat with potential UDFAs before the draft is over, but forbid actual negotiations. For his part, Panthers GM Marty Hurney says he did not do anything “out of bounds”.

That’s not — what we did is we did have several conversations with Tommy before the draft. He had history with [offensive coordinator] Joe Brady (at Penn State). We thought that if we didn’t have a chance to draft him that he was one of the guys on our list. But it didn’t go any further than that,” Hurney said (via Joe Person of The Athletic).

The league may or may not agree after completing an investigation into the matter. If the Saints and/or Panthers are found to have violated league rules, they could be penalized with fines or the forfeiture of future draft picks.

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Contract Details: 5/29/20

Here are the details on a few recently-signed contracts:

  • Eli Apple, CB (Panthers): One year. $3MM, including $750K signing bonus. Twitter link via Ian Rapoport of NFL.com.
  • Anthony Chickillo, LB (Saints): One year. Veteran salary benefit. $1.047MM base salary ($68,750 guaranteed). Twitter link via Nick Underhill of NewOrleans.Football.
  • Carlos Hyde, RB (Seahawks): One year, max value of $4MM. $1.5MM base salary, $750K signing bonus, $500K in per game roster bonuses. Up to $1.25MM in incentives. Twitter link via Rapoport.

Panthers Sign CB Eli Apple

Several weeks after his Raiders deal fell through, Eli Apple secured another free agency agreement. The Panthers announced Thursday they signed the veteran cornerback.

Apple and the Panthers agreed to a one-year deal, according to Joe Person of The Athletic (on Twitter). This will help fill the void James Bradberry created when he defected to the Giants in March. A former Giants first-round pick, Apple will have a clear track to a starting job with the Panthers.

During one of the most defense-heavy drafts in NFL history, Carolina did select two corners. But the team did not address this position until the fourth round. Prior to Apple, the Panthers had not made a notable free agent investment at corner this offseason, either. Pro Football Focus graded none of Carolina’s incumbent corners higher than 89th at the position last season. Donte Jackson, a 2018 second-rounder, resides as the Panthers’ top cornerback holdover. Bradberry had served as Carolina’s No. 1 corner throughout his career.

Apple, 24, agreed to a one-year, $6MM Raiders pact in March. But on April 2, the former Ohio State standout returned to free agency. This takes one of free agency’s top corners off the market, though the likes of Logan Ryan and Darqueze Dennard remain unsigned.

The Giants traded Apple to the Saints during the 2018 season, and he delivered more stable work in New Orleans after a rocky tenure in New York. Apple started 25 games for the Saints. He will follow Teddy Bridgewater east to be part of Matt Rhule‘s rebuild effort.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Longest-Tenured GMs In The NFL

When we ran down the longest-tenured head coaches in the NFL, we found that less than half of the league’s current coaches have been in their positions for more than three years. That’s not quite the case with general managers, but there have been plenty of changes in recent years.

A handful of general managers have gotten to take their coats off and stay for a long while. Among coaches, Bill Belichick had joined his team prior to 2003. Here, you’ll see that five GMs have been with their teams since before ’03 (Belichick, of course, is also on this list). Two of those five – Jerry Jones and Mike Brown – are outliers, since they’re team owners and serve as de facto GMs. But the Patriots, Steelers, and Saints, have all had the same general managers making their roster decisions for well over a decade.

Here’s the complete list of the NFL’s longest-tenured GMs, along with the date they took over the job:

  1. Jerry Jones (Dallas Cowboys): April 18, 1989[1]
  2. Mike Brown (Cincinnati Bengals): August 5, 1991[2]
  3. Bill Belichick (New England Patriots): January 27, 2000[3]
  4. Kevin Colbert (Pittsburgh Steelers): February 18, 2000[4]
  5. Mickey Loomis (New Orleans Saints): May 14, 2002
  6. Rick Spielman (Minnesota Vikings): May 30, 2006[5]
  7. Thomas Dimitroff (Atlanta Falcons): January 13, 2008
  8. John Schneider (Seattle Seahawks): January 19, 2010[6]
  9. Howie Roseman (Philadelphia Eagles): January 29, 2010
  10. John Elway (Denver Broncos): January 5, 2011[7]
  11. Les Snead (St. Louis Rams): February 10, 2012
  12. David Caldwell (Jacksonville Jaguars): January 8, 2013
  13. Steve Keim (Arizona Cardinals): January 8, 2013
  14. Tom Telesco (San Diego Chargers): January 9, 2013
  15. Jason Licht (Tampa Bay Buccaneers): January 21, 2014
  16. Ryan Pace (Chicago Bears): January 8, 2015
  17. Chris Grier (Miami Dolphins): January 4, 2016
  18. Bob Quinn (Detroit Lions): January 8, 2016
  19. Jon Robinson (Tennessee Titans): January 14, 2016
  20. John Lynch (San Francisco 49ers): January 29, 2017
  21. Chris Ballard (Indianapolis Colts): January 30, 2017
  22. Brandon Beane (Buffalo Bills): May 9, 2017
  23. Brett Veach (Kansas City Chiefs): July 11, 2017
  24. Marty Hurney (Carolina Panthers): July 19, 2017
  25. Dave Gettleman (New York Giants): December 28, 2017
  26. Brian Gutekunst (Green Bay Packers): January 7, 2018
  27. Mike Mayock (Oakland Raiders): December 31, 2018
  28. Joe Douglas (New York Jets): June 7, 2019
  29. Eric DeCosta (Baltimore Ravens): January 7, 2019[8]
  30. Ron Rivera (Washington Redskins): January 1, 2020[9]
  31. Andrew Berry (Cleveland Browns): January 27, 2020
  32. Bill O’Brien (Houston Texans): January 28, 2020

Footnotes:

  1. Jones has been the Cowboys’ de facto general manager since former GM Tex Schramm resigned in April 1989.
  2. Brown has been the Bengals’ de facto GM since taking over as the team’s owner in August 1991.
  3. Belichick has been the Patriots’ de facto GM since shortly after being hired as the team’s head coach in January 2000.
  4. Colbert was initially hired as the team’s director of football operations and received the newly-created general manager title in 2011.
  5. Spielman was initially hired as the team’s VP of player personnel and received the GM title in 2012.
  6. While Schneider holds the title of GM, head coach Pete Carroll has the final say on roster moves for the Seahawks.
  7. Elway was initially hired as the team’s executive VP of football operations and received the GM title in 2014.
  8. In 2018, the Ravens announced that DeCosta would replace Ozzie Newsome as GM for Ozzie Newsome after the conclusion of the season. The Ravens’ ’18 season ended with their Wild Card loss to the Chargers on 1/6/19.
  9. Technically, the Redskins do not have a GM, as of this writing. Rivera is, effectively, their GM, working in tandem with Vice President of Player Personnel Kyle Smith. Smith may receive the GM title in the near future.

Tagovailoa, Brown Have Offset Language

Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and Panthers defensive lineman Derrick Brown have offset language in their contracts, according to Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated. So far, they’re the only two first-round picks to have their deals in place, so that’s an indication most of the Top 32 will follow suit. 

Rookie contracts for NFL draft picks are cut-and-dry, for the most part, thanks to the slotting system. However, offset language is usually the biggest barrier to an agreement. If a player with offset language is released midway through the contract and signs elsewhere, the original team is only on the hook for the difference in salary between the two deals. Without offset language, the player can effectively collect two paychecks. Naturally, agents try to preserve that potential earning power while owners push back.

Breer expects just about every first-round pick to make the same concession, except for Jaguars first-round picks C.J. Henderson (No. 9 overall) and K’Lavon Chaisson (No. 20 overall). Historically, the Jaguars have not pushed offsets on players, but most teams do. It would only make sense for teams to insist on offsets, particularly following this truly unprecedented evaluation period. In essence, offset language serves as a bit of insurance against the possibility of a draft bust.

On the whole, the Dolphins are excited about Tagovailoa’s potential, despite his surgically-repaired hip and other past issues on his medical chart. In accordance with his slot at No. 5 overall, he’ll make just over $30MM over the course of a four-year deal. Brown, meanwhile, is set to make just under $24MM over the course of his four year deal with the Panthers. As first round picks, both deals will include fifth-year options. They’ll also come with a bit of extra protection, thanks to the offset language included within.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Longest-Tenured Head Coaches In The NFL

Things move fast in today’s NFL and the old adage of “coaches are hired to be fired” has seemingly never been more true. For the most part, teams change their coaches like they change their underwear. 

A head coach can take his team to the Super Bowl, or win the Super Bowl, or win multiple Super Bowls, but they’re never immune to scrutiny. Just ask Tom Coughlin, who captured his second ring with the Giants after the 2011 season, only to receive his pink slip after the 2015 campaign.

There are also exceptions. Just look at Bill Belichick, who just wrapped up his 20th season at the helm in New England. You’ll also see a few others on this list, but, for the most part, most of today’s NFL head coaches are relatively new to their respective clubs. And, history dictates that many of them will be elsewhere when we check in on this list in 2022.

Over one-third (12) of the NFL’s head coaches have coached no more than one season with their respective teams. Meanwhile, less than half (15) have been with their current clubs for more than three years. It seems like just yesterday that the Cardinals hired Kliff Kingsbury, right? It sort of was – Kingsbury signed on with the Cardinals in January of 2019. Today, he’s practically a veteran.

Here’s the list of the current head coaches in the NFL, ordered by tenure, along with their respective start dates:

  1. Bill Belichick (New England Patriots): January 27, 2000
  2. Sean Payton (New Orleans Saints): January 18, 2006
  3. Mike Tomlin (Pittsburgh Steelers): January 27, 2007
  4. John Harbaugh (Baltimore Ravens): January 19, 2008
  5. Pete Carroll (Seattle Seahawks): January 9, 2010
  6. Andy Reid (Kansas City Chiefs): January 4, 2013
  7. Bill O’Brien (Houston Texans): January 2, 2014
  8. Mike Zimmer (Minnesota Vikings): January 15, 2014
  9. Dan Quinn (Atlanta Falcons): February 2, 2015
  10. Doug Pederson (Philadelphia Eagles): January 18, 2016
  11. Sean McDermott (Buffalo Bills): January 11, 2017
  12. Doug Marrone (Jacksonville Jaguars): December 19, 2016 (interim; permanent since 2017)
  13. Anthony Lynn (Los Angeles Chargers): January 12, 2017
  14. Sean McVay (Los Angeles Rams): January 12, 2017
  15. Kyle Shanahan (San Francisco 49ers): February 6, 2017
  16. Matt Nagy (Chicago Bears): January 7, 2018
  17. Matt Patricia (Detroit Lions): February 5, 2018
  18. Frank Reich (Indianapolis Colts): February 11, 2018
  19. Jon Gruden (Las Vegas Raiders): January 6, 2018
  20. Mike Vrabel (Tennessee Titans): January 20, 2018
  21. Kliff Kingsbury (Arizona Cardinals): January 8, 2019
  22. Zac Taylor (Cincinnati Bengals): February 4, 2019
  23. Vic Fangio (Denver Broncos): January 10, 2019
  24. Matt LaFleur (Green Bay Packers): January 8, 2019
  25. Brian Flores (Miami Dolphins): February 4, 2019
  26. Adam Gase (New York Jets): January 11, 2019
  27. Bruce Arians (Tampa Bay Buccaneers): January 8, 2019
  28. Ron Rivera (Washington Redskins): January 1, 2020
  29. Matt Rhule (Carolina Panthers): January 7, 2020
  30. Mike McCarthy (Dallas Cowboys): January 7, 2020
  31. Joe Judge (New York Giants): January 8, 2020
  32. Kevin Stefanski (Cleveland Browns): January 13, 2020

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