Brian Burns

Panthers Looking To Add Pass Rusher

Carolina lost Haason Reddick early in free agency and did not enter the draft holding a Day 2 pick. While the Panthers acquired a third-rounder, they used it to take Matt Corral. After addressing their top needs with their first two selections, the Panthers did not use one of their remaining choices on an edge rusher and are somewhat thin at that position.

Brian Burns returns to anchor Carolina’s edge group, and 2020 second-rounder Yetur Gross-Matos has two years left on his contract, but the team is looking into help here, Joe Person of The Athletic notes (subscription required). Carolina’s $25MM-plus in cap space sits second in the league, and several talented pass rushers remain in free agency.

GM Scott Fitterer was with the Seahawks during Jadeveon Clowney‘s 2019 Seattle season. The Browns are interested in re-signing Clowney, a South Carolina native, but the former No. 1 overall pick is not in a rush. Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Houston, Melvin Ingram and Trey Flowers are the other top names available. Flowers, 28, is the only member of the latter contingent south of 30. He also struggled while on his big-ticket Lions contract. The Ravens and Chiefs, respectively, placed UFA tenders on Houston and Ingram. This does not tie either player to those AFC teams, but both are entitled to 110% of their 2021 salaries. Whitney Mercilus and Ryan Kerrigan are also available.

Working in rotational roles in 2020 and ’21, Gross-Matos has six career sacks and 10 quarterback hits. The Panthers re-signed 2018 fourth-round pick Marquis Haynes, who combined for seven sacks in that span. The Panthers could see some of their salary cap space turn into Baker Mayfield, but the team wants the Browns to eat a sizable chunk of the quarterback’s salary in a trade. Carolina should still have some free funds to pursue a veteran edge — likely on a one-year deal — should Fitterer, Matt Rhule and Co. deem Burns’ current supporting cast insufficient.

Burns, who is now extension-eligible, attended Carolina’s initial OTAs but is now working out on his own in Florida, per Person. He is expected to attend the team’s mandatory June minicamp. The Panthers picked up Burns’ fifth-year option for 2023, fully guaranteeing him a $16MM salary next year. Teams are often hesitant about extending non-quarterbacks with two years of control remaining, though Fitterer has indicated a desire to extend Burns. The Panthers also have shown a willingness to do early extensions, having given Christian McCaffrey a record-setting deal when two years remained on his rookie contract. They waited until this offseason to extend D.J. Moore, who was to go into his fifth-year option season.

2023 NFL Fifth-Year Option Results

Monday marked the deadline for NFL clubs to officially pick up their options on 2019 first-rounders. Fifth-year option seasons are no longer just guaranteed for injury — they’re now fully guaranteed, which makes these decisions a little tougher for teams.

Nineteen players had their options exercised, a tick up from 14 last year. Here’s the full rundown:

1. QB Kyler Murray, Cardinals – Exercised ($29.7MM)
2. DE Nick Bosa, 49ers: Exercised ($17.9MM)
3. DE Quinnen Williams, Jets: Exercised ($11.5MM)
4. DE Clelin Ferrell, Raiders: Declined ($11.5MM)
5. LB Devin White, Buccaneers: Exercised ($11.7MM)
6. QB Daniel Jones, Giants: Declined ($22.4MM)
7. DE Josh Allen, Jaguars: Exercised ($11.5MM)
8. TE T.J. Hockenson, Lions: Exercised ($9.4MM)
9. DT Ed Oliver, Bills: Exercised ($10.8MM)
10. LB Devin Bush, Steelers: Declined ($10.9MM)
11. OT Jonah Williams, Bengals: Exercised ($12.6MM)
12. LB Rashan Gary, Packers: Exercised ($10.9MM)
13. DT Christian Wilkins, Dolphins: Exercised ($10.8MM)
14. G Chris Lindstrom, Falcons: Exercised ($13.2MM)
15. QB Dwayne Haskins:
16. DE Brian Burns, Panthers: Exercised ($16MM)
17. DT Dexter Lawrence, Giants: Exercised ($10.8MM)
18. C Garrett Bradbury, Vikings: Declined ($13.2MM)
19. DT Jeffery Simmons, Titans: Exercised ($10.8MM)
20. TE Noah Fant, Seahawks: Exercised ($6.9MM; originally drafted by Broncos)
21. S Darnell Savage, Packers: Exercised ($7.9MM)
22. OT Andre Dillard, Eagles: Declined ($12.6MM)
23. OT Tytus Howard, Texans: Exercised ($13.2MM)
24. RB Josh Jacobs, Raiders: Declined ($8MM)
25. WR Marquise Brown, Cardinals: ($13.4MM; originally drafted by Ravens)
26. DE Montez Sweat, Commanders: Exercised ($11.5MM)
27. S Johnathan Abram, Raiders: Declined ($7.9MM)
28. DE Jerry Tillery, Chargers: Declined ($11.5MM)
29. DE L.J. Collier, Seahawks: Declined ($11.5MM)
30. CB Deandre Baker — N/A (released by Giants)
31. OT Kaleb McGary, Falcons: Declined ($13.2MM)
32. WR N’Keal Harry, Patriots: Declined ($12.4MM)

Panthers Eyeing Extension With Brian Burns

One of the teams with a key decision to make with respect to fifth-year options was the Panthers. Not surprisingly, they officially picked up the option on edge rusher Brian Burns yesterday, but the team is hoping to have him under contract for much more than the next two seasons. 

Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer said during yesterday’s announcement “we have hopes of extending him beyond [2023]” (Twitter link via Joe Person of the Athletic). It had long been known, of course, that Carolina would exercise the option on Burns; likewise, it comes as little surprise that they would want to get a long-term deal done with the 24-year-old.

The 16th overall pick in 2019, Burns had an immediate impact during his rookie season. Despite playing less than half of the team’s defensive snaps, he registered 7.5 sacks. In the two seasons since then, he has taken his production a step further, with back-to-back years at 50+ tackles and nine sacks. He was named to his first career Pro Bowl in 2021.

Between those numbers and his age, getting a second contract done as soon as possible would make plenty of sense. His 2023 salary will be just over $16MM as a result of the option being picked up, which could provide a framework for a longer commitment. Burns will continue next season as an anchor of the team’s pass rush, along with the likes of Yetur Gross-Matos and the recently re-signed Frankie Luvu.

Panthers To Pick Up Brian Burns’ Fifth-Year Option

Despite the 2020 CBA making teams’ fifth-year option decisions a bit trickier, the Panthers have a fairly easy call to make. They will pick up Brian Burns‘ 2023 option, GM Scott Fitterer said (via The Athletic’s Joe Person, on Twitter).

Since Burns has received one Pro Bowl invite as an original selection, he is eligible for the Tier 2 option price ($16MM for defensive ends). That amount is fully guaranteed. Only six edge rushers’ cap numbers top that this year, but the Panthers will be connected to a Burns extension — one that likely will be targeted in 2023.

The Florida State product arrived during the Ron RiveraMarty Hurney regime and has been a steady producer in Carolina. Burns has accumulated 25.5 sacks in three seasons, never finishing with fewer than 7.5, and he was named a Pro Bowl starter during a 2021 season in which he finished with nine sacks and 18 quarterback hits.

Carolina’s Matt Rhule regime made a preemptive strike by signing Christian McCaffrey to an extension with two years of team control remaining, doing so in 2020. In general, teams hesitate to do this. Burns will make just $2.3MM in base salary this season and count $4.3MM against the cap.

Panthers Reworking Staff

Panthers head coach Matt Rhule has had some difficulties making the same immediate impact in Carolina that gained him notoriety in Waco. In two years at the helm, Rhule hasn’t succeeded in improving his team’s win total from the season before he was hired. In an attempt to make some needed improvements, the Panthers announced that they were letting go of offensive line coach Pat Meyer, defensive line coach Frank Okam, and special teams coordinator Chase Blackburn.

The team struggled on both sides of the line this year and it looks like any attempts to improve will be made by new position coaches, while the special teams unit saw four different kickers and three punters throughout the year, including the preseason.

Meyer has been with Rhule since the move to Carolina. He’s been coaching in the NFL for 8 years with stops at the Chargers, Bills, and Bears. Meyer entered the NFL with Marc Trestman, moving with the coach from the CFL to Chicago.

Okam joined Rhule at Baylor and followed the notably loyal coach to the Panthers. Rhule had brought much of his staff from Temple with him to Baylor, so it was safe to assume some of the Baylor staff would end up in Carolina, as well. Despite coaching up young draft picks like Derrick Brown, Yetur Gross-Matos, and Bravvion Roy and seeing career numbers from Brian Burns, Efe Obada, and Marquis Haynes, it seems Rhule is wanting a bit more from this position group.

Chase Blackburn was a longtime linebacker for the Giants before spending his final two years playing in Carolina. After about a year of retirement from playing, Blackburn became a special teams intern in Ron Rivera‘s staff. When Rhule came in to replace Rivera, Blackburn was one of two holdovers from the staff along with Jake Peetz, who is now the offensive coordinator at LSU.

It’s yet to be seen who will replace them, but Rhule continues to show hints of what made him successful at the college level by attempting to make the necessary changes to succeed. With young talent on both sides of the ball, Rhule may yet turn this team around.

NFL COVID-19 List Updates: 1/1/22

Here are the New Year’s Day activations from and placements on the reserve/COVID-19 lists:

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Carolina Panthers

Cincinnati Bengals

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

  • Activated from reserve/COVID-19 list: G Oli Udoh

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

New York Jets

  • Activated from reserve/COVID-19 list: CB Bryce Hall

Philadelphia Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee Titans

Panthers’ Shaq Thompson, Brian Burns To Play Sunday

The Panthers will get a major boost on their defense when they take on the Saints tomorrow. Brian Burns and Shaq Thompson have cleared COVID-19 protocols and will play in New Orleans on Sunday, reports NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport (via Twitter).

The two players were among a handful of Panthers players who landed on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Monday, putting their availability for Sunday in doubt. While Burns and Thompson will play, the Panthers will still likely be without a handful of notable defensive players, including linebacker Haason Reddick.

Burns, a 2019 first-round pick, earned his first Pro Bowl nod this season, boosting his eventual fifth-year option value from around $11.5MM to $16.6MM (per OverTheCap.com). In 15 starts, Burns has collected nine sacks, two forced fumbles, 17 QB hits, and 29 tackles. The edge rusher has also earned a top-10 pass rush grade from Pro Football Focus.

Thompson, a former first-round pick, has spent his entire career with the Panthers, including 2019 and 2020 campaigns where he combined for 223 tackles. He’s had another productive season in 2021, collecting 91 tackles, two sacks, and two interceptions. The 27-year-old still has two-plus years remaining on the four-year, $54MM extension he inked with Carolina in 2019.

Panthers Sign Brian Burns

It’s a done deal. On Wednesday, the Panthers agreed to terms with No. 16 overall pick Brian Burns, a source tells NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero (on Twitter). With that Burns, will report on time and partake in activities on Wednesday. 

Burns, a Florida State product, saved his best for last. In 2018, Burns registered ten sacks, 15.5 tackles for a loss, and 52 total stops. In the eyes of the Panthers and at least one other team, he was the best pass rusher left on the board in the middle of the first round.

Here’s the full recap of the Panthers’ 2019 draft class, via PFR’s tracker:

With Burns under contract, there are only two first-round picks unsigned: No. 2 overall choice Nick Bosa (49ers) and No. 3 pick Quinnen Williams (Jets).

Ravens Notes: Second Round, Brown, Burns

The Ravens will have a pair of third-rounders this evening, but the team currently doesn’t own a second-round pick. It sounds like it’s going to stay that way, as general manager Eric DeCosta said it’s unlikely the team moves up.

“We look at today as an awesome opportunity for this team to get better,” DeCosta said (via the team’s Twitter). “We’ve got two picks at this time, you never know if we’re going to have more than two picks. We’ve got a bunch of picks tomorrow afternoon.

“There’s a possibility that we can trade up into the second round. Probably unlikely that we would do that based on what we’d have to give up to do it.”

The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec tweets that he wouldn’t be surprised if the Ravens end up making a trade to move up in the third round, where they’re currently armed with picks No. 85 and No. 102. The front office has already pulled off one deal during the draft, as the Ravens acquired No. 25, No. 127, and No. 197 from the Eagles in exchange for No. 22.

Let’s check out some more notes out of Baltimore…

  • Even though the team doesn’t have a second, that doesn’t seem to be concerning DeCosta. The general manager told ESPN’s Jamison Hensley that he’s excited about the depth in the third and fourth rounds (Twitter link). “I think this is a really, really good draft in the third and fourth round,” GM Eric DeCosta said. “We see great opportunity for us over the next couple of days.” Baltimore has three fourth-rounders at their disposal.
  • Zrebiec writes that the Ravens would have loved to add a pass rusher last night. However, once Brian Burns was taken by the Panthers at No. 16, the front office felt like none of the remaining outside linebackers had first-round grades. That led them to wideout Marquise Brown, although DeCosta took a risk of missing out on his target by moving down a few slots. “We were nervous to be honest. I was a little bit nervous that Philly might take (Brown), but it’s a calculated risk,” DeCosta said. “We had some other players that were there that we liked. You know we like to make trades. It made sense to gamble, to roll the dice a little bit, so we did.”
  • The Ravens final decision ultimately came down to Brown or Florida right tackle Jawaan Taylor, according to Zrebiec. If the team had opted for the offensive lineman, they would have moved him to offensive guard. Taylor wasn’t taken during the first-round of the draft.
  • As Zrebiec writes, the Ravens front office doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to first-round receivers, as Travis Taylor (2000), Mark Clayton (2005) and Breshad Perriman (2015) all disappointed. Predictably, DeCosta said the team’s history didn’t deter him from selecting a wideout with his first draft pick as general manager. “In my mind, this is one of the more electric players in college football this year, so we spent a lot of time looking at him and watching him,” DeCosta said.

King’s Latest: Giants, Bosa, Steelers, Sweat

Connected to two positions primarily throughout the pre-draft process, the Giants appear certain to fill one of those early. Dave Gettleman wants a pass rusher “in the worst way,” a veteran NFL exec told NBC Sports’ Peter King, before adding the team will draft an edge player with one of its first three picks. New York holds picks 6, 17 and 37 but also has been understandably linked to quarterbacks after passing on them early in last year’s draft. The Giants have met with just about every top- and second-tier pass-rushing, hosting Nick Bosa, Josh Allen, Ed Oliver, Quinnen Williams, Rashan Gary, Brian Burns, Clelin Ferrell, Dexter Lawrence, Jaylon Ferguson on visits. After trading away Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon in consecutive offseasons, the Giants boast one of the most edge defender-needy depth charts in the game. Their Vernon-powered pass-rushing group last year registered just 30 sacks.

While the Giants may be zeroing in on Dwayne Haskins, they have also done work on possible second-round quarterbacks Will Grier and Jarrett Stidham — in the event Gettleman would dare push his post-Eli Manning QB need to 2020 and prioritize pass rushers early. He has said he would not view a non-first-round pick as a legitimate long-term quarterback solution.

Here is the latest from the draft world, courtesy of the veteran reporter:

  • Adding some intrigue to the Cardinals‘ situation: they believe Bosa is a generational prospect. While King still has them selecting Kyler Murray at No. 1, the report they are not totally committed to this yet — despite just about everything we’ve heard in recent weeks — is a bit more interesting. Bosa visited the Cardinals earlier this month and would obviously fill the team’s need opposite Chandler Jones.
  • While defensive line and linebacker prospects figure to populate the ESPN ticker early in Thursday night’s draft, secondary pieces may not come off the board until the second part of the opening round. One of the teams in need of cornerback help may have a preference. Mike Tomlin “loves” Temple’s Rock Ya-Sin, King writes. The Steelers have a linebacker need too but did sign Mark Barron to pair with Vince Williams. Their 2016 first-round investment of Artie Burns has not paid off, so Pittsburgh’s No. 20 spot may well be a cornerback destination. Ya-Sin, who played at Presbyterian (S.C.) prior to playing one season at Temple, visited the Steelers this month.
  • Brian Burns‘ stock has risen recently, and King mocks the Florida State product to the Bengals at No. 11. Burns ran a 4.53-second 40-yard dash at the Combine and is one of many high-caliber front-seven players available.
  • Another member of that group’s fortune has not been as kind. Montez Sweat will not attend the draft. Some teams have taken the Mississippi State product off their draft boards, and it is now possible he falls out of the first round. Reportedly diagnosed with an enlarged heart, Sweat may have some teams willing to take a chance on him early. One GM told King that Sweat will have an issue with his heart going forward, but if it’s closely monitored, the talented defender can have a career. That would be a boon for someone’s defense, with Sweat blazing to a 4.41-second 40 at the Combine and combining for 23 sacks between the 2017-18 seasons. Another GM informed King he believes Sweat’s upside is higher than Bosa’s, adding further intrigue to this situation.