Panthers edge defender Brian Burns is set to play out the 2023 season on the fifth-year option of his rookie contract, which will pay him roughly $16MM. Given Burns’ talent and status as a cornerstone player, Carolina wants to keep him in the fold for the long haul, and GM Scott Fitterer recently said that he will explore an extension for Burns after the draft next month (Twitter link via David Newton of ESPN.com).
Burns, who will turn 25 several days before the draft, has solidified himself as one of the league’s best young pass rushers. Despite appearing in just 43% of the Panthers’ defensive snaps as a rookie in 2019, Burns tallied 7.5 sacks, and with increased playing time came increased production. From 2020-22, the Florida State product recorded nine, nine, and 12.5 sacks, and he has earned Pro Bowl acclaim in each of the past two seasons.
Understandably, Burns drew plenty of interest at the 2022 deadline, as Carolina had already traded star running back Christian McCaffrey and profiled as an obvious seller at the time. The Rams were particularly aggressive, offering 2024 and 2025 first-round picks and a 2023 second-rounder. Although Fitterer reportedly gave serious consideration to Los Angeles’ proposal, he ultimately elected to hold onto Burns, along with other young components of his defensive core like Derrick Brown, Jaycee Horn, and Jeremy Chinn.
The fact that the Panthers turned down such a massive haul will only increase Burns’ already considerable leverage in contract talks. Spotrac has suggested a four-year deal worth about $73MM is a fair estimate of Burns’ worth, but it seems reasonable to expect that Burns will do better than that. Earlier reports indicated that his next contract will top the five-year, $110MM pact that the Dolphins authorized for their deadline acquisition, Bradley Chubb, a deal that features over $63MM in guaranteed money.
Burns has not been as effective against the run as he has been against the pass, as his subpar Pro Football Focus run defense grades of 43.8 and 50.9 over the last two years would suggest. That could limit his earning power to some degree, though his pass-rushing acumen is the skill that will truly drive his asking price. Plus, the Panthers’ shift to a 3-4 front under new DC Ejiro Evero could improve Burns’ all-around performance, and if the team can draft or otherwise acquire a talented playmaker to take some pressure off of him, he could realize another boost in production.