D.J. Moore (WR)

Largest 2023 Cap Hits: Offense

The NFL’s salary cap once again ballooned by more than $10MM, rising from its $208.2MM perch to $224.8MM. Factoring in the pandemic-induced 2021 regression, the NFL’s salary risen has climbed by more than $42MM since 2021.

This has allowed teams more opportunities for roster additions and opened the door for more lucrative player deals — at most positions, at least. However, it does not look like this season will include a $40MM player cap number. The Browns avoided a record-shattering Deshaun Watson $54.9MM hit by restructuring the quarterback’s fully guaranteed contract, calling for monster figures from 2024-26.

Here are the largest cap hits for teams on the offensive side going into training camp:

  1. Patrick Mahomes, QB (Chiefs): $39.69MM
  2. Ryan Tannehill, QB (Titans): $36.6MM
  3. Jared Goff, QB (Lions): $30.98MM
  4. Jake Matthews, T (Falcons): $28.36MM
  5. Trent Williams, T (49ers): $27.18MM
  6. Dak Prescott, QB (Cowboys): $26.83MM
  7. Laremy Tunsil, T (Texans): $26.61MM
  8. Jimmy Garoppolo, QB (49ers): $23.8MM
  9. Amari Cooper, WR (Browns): $23.78MM
  10. Mike Evans, WR (Buccaneers): $23.69MM
  11. Ronnie Stanley, T (Ravens): $23.67MM
  12. Joe Thuney, G (Chiefs): $22.12MM
  13. Russell Wilson, QB (Broncos): $22MM
  14. Lamar Jackson, QB (Ravens): $22MM
  15. Daniel Jones, QB (Giants): $21.75MM
  16. David Bakhtiari, T (Packers): $21.29MM
  17. Kirk Cousins, QB (Vikings): $20.25MM
  18. D.J. Moore, WR (Bears): $20.17MM
  19. Matthew Stafford, QB (Rams): $20MM
  20. Brian O’Neill, T (Vikings): $19.66MM
  21. Taylor Decker, T (Lions): $19.35MM
  22. Deshaun Watson, QB (Browns): $19.1MM
  23. Braden Smith, T (Colts): $19MM
  24. Josh Allen, QB (Bills): $18.64MM
  25. Courtland Sutton, WR (Broncos): $18.27MM

As should be expected, quarterbacks dominate this list. Mahomes’ number checks in here despite the Chiefs restructuring his 10-year, $450MM contract in March; the two-time MVP’s cap hit would have set an NFL record had Kansas City not reduced it. The Chiefs did not restructure Mahomes’ deal last year, but if they do not address it — perhaps via a complex reworking — before next season, Mahomes’ $46.93MM number would break an NFL record.

The Titans have not touched Tannehill’s contract this offseason, one that included some trade rumors months ago. This is the final year of Tannehill’s Tennessee extension. Mahomes and Tannehill sat atop this ranking in 2022.

Cousins is also heading into a contract year, after the Vikings opted for a restructure and not an extension this offseason. Cousins does not expect to discuss another Minnesota deal until 2024, when he is due for free agency. Two relatively low cap numbers have started Wilson’s $49MM-per-year extension. The Denver QB’s cap number rises to $35.4MM in 2024 and reaches historic heights ($55.4MM) by ’25. The subject of a Goff extension has come up, and it would bring down the Lions passer’s figure. But Goff remains tied to his Rams-constructed $33.5MM-per-year deal through 2024.

Jackson and Jones’ numbers will rise in the near future, with the latter’s contract calling for a quick spike in 2024. Next year, the Giants QB’s cap hit will be $45MM. Watson’s 2024 hit, as of now, would top that. The Browns signal-caller is on the team’s ’24 payroll at $63.98MM. Long-term consequences aside, the Browns can be expected to once again go to the restructure well with Watson’s outlier contract.

The Raiders did not backload Garoppolo’s three-year contract; it only climbs to $24.25MM on Las Vegas’ 2024 cap sheet. The Bills did backload Allen’s pact. Its team-friendly years are done after 2023; the six-year accord spikes to $47.1MM on Buffalo’s cap next year. The Cowboys have gone to the restructure well with Prescott. Like Watson, the Cowboys quarterback is tied to a seemingly untenable 2024 cap number. The March restructure resulted in Prescott’s 2024 number rising to $59.46MM. Two seasons remain on that $40MM-AAV extension.

Another notable cap hold that should be mentioned is Tom Brady‘s. When the Buccaneers did not sign the again-retired QB to another contract before the 2023 league year, his $35.1MM dead-money figure went onto Tampa Bay’s 2023 cap sheet. The Bucs will absorb that entire amount this year. Brady’s 2022 restructure, after retirement No. 1, led to the $35.1MM figure forming.

Were it not for another O-line-record extension, the Tunsil number would have come in at $35MM this year. Matthews signed an extension last year. Moore would have come in higher on this list were he still on the Panthers, who took on $14.6MM in dead money to move their top wideout for the No. 1 overall pick. Sutton came up regularly in trade rumors, with the Broncos wanting a second-round pick for the sixth-year veteran. The former second-rounder’s high base salary ($14MM) hinders his trade value.

D.J. Moore’s Contract Factored Into Bears’ Trade Effort

While the Panthers stood down regarding a D.J. Moore trade after firing Matt Rhule last October, they ended up unloading their top wide receiver to secure what turned out to be Bryce Young draft real estate. Moore will move to a Bears franchise that has not had much luck forging long-term partnerships with impact wide receivers.

Moore came up during the Bears and Panthers’ trade talks when other suitors drove up the bidding during the early-March sweepstakes for the No. 1 overall pick. The Texans initially were part of these proceedings, with the Bears plotting a move down from No. 1 to No. 2 to No. 9. After Houston withdrew, Chicago dealt directly with Carolina. Bears GM Ryan Poles also inquired about defensive linemen Brian Burns and Derrick Brown, but both being on rookie contracts impeded either being included in the trade.

In the very beginning I was laughed at because I had [one of] three guys that I wanted in the trade,” Poles said, via The Athletic’s Jim Trotter (subscription required). “I did know and felt like there was more of an opportunity to get D.J. because he had a bigger contract and there would be a bigger benefit in cap space to kick back to Carolina. But it was not easy because they absolutely loved that kid. It was painful to pull him out of their arms. I really think it would have been even harder if he had been on a rookie contract.

Carolina extended Moore in nearly a year before trading him, agreeing to terms on a three-year deal worth $61.9MM. That pact came just before the avalanche of receiver extensions drove up the market. Moore, Mike Williams and Chris Godwin settled onto the same tier, hours before Davante Adams‘ Raiders extension ($28MM per year) and days before Tyreek Hill‘s $30MM-AAV extension came to pass. The 2019 receiver class soon upped the cost for up-and-coming star pass catchers as well.

The Bears will benefit from the Panthers’ timing with Moore. They now have him tied to the 10th-most lucrative receiver deal, with the likes of A.J. Brown, Terry McLaurin, Deebo Samuel and D.K. Metcalf passing him later during the 2022 offseason. Chicago does not have another big-ticket skill-position deal on its books, with Darnell Mooney, Chase Claypool and Cole Kmet attached to rookie contracts. Justin Fields‘ rookie pact runs through 2024 but can be pushed to 2025 via the fifth-year option. The team let David Montgomery walk — for a three-year, $18MM Lions deal — and landed a replacement (D’Onta Foreman) for just $2MM.

The Bears might still be in the market for defensive end help, having finished last in sacks in 2022 and addressing their D-tackle spots early in the draft. But Burns remains on track to sign a Panthers extension. Brown became extension-eligible in January, but the Panthers picked up his fifth-year option earlier this month.

Moore, 26, posted 1,100-plus-yard years from 2019-21, doing so despite a shuffling Panthers QB situation. The Bears have experienced fairly good fortune with veteran acquisitions at receiver over the past several years. Brandon Marshall still holds the team’s single-season receiving yardage record; Allen Robinson produced two 1,100-plus-yard seasons. Neither lasted more than four years for the Bears, who did not get much from Robinson’s fourth slate (a 410-yard showing on the franchise tag).

Moore’s Chicago fit will be a work in progress, but he should have a chance to land another extension in the not-too-distant future, a contract that could keep him in Illinois for the long haul.

WR Notes: Flowers, Vikings, Chiefs, Giants, Addison, Bucs, Johnston, Robinson, Moore

Zay Flowers does not appear likely to fall out of the first round, and his final pre-draft meetup looks to have gone well. The Chiefs organizing a Flowers-Patrick Mahomes workout in Texas has led to interest on the defending Super Bowl champions’ part, Albert Breer of SI.com notes. They are not alone. The Giants and Vikings are Flowers fans as well. Previous reports also indicated the Bears and Chargers are intrigued by the speedy Boston College product, despite his 5-foot-9 stature. Flowers would be an atypical first-round pick, with Marquise Brown (2019) and Tavon Austin (2013) the only receivers chosen in Round 1 at 5-9 or shorter in the 21st century. But Flowers made a number of pre-draft visits and, coming off his only 1,000-yard college season, will be one of the first receivers off the board.

The Vikings released Adam Thielen earlier this year and have K.J. Osborn going into a contract year. Considering Justin Jefferson‘s likely extension price, Minnesota paying multiple wideouts notable veteran sums might be difficult. The Giants have performed an extensive examination on the top wideouts available.

Here is the latest from the rookie and veteran receiver landscape:

  • Regarding the Giants‘ receiver studies, Ralph Vacchiano of Fox Sports indicates they are also believed to be considering USC’s Jordan Addison in Round 1 (Twitter link), indicating Addison might be ahead of Flowers on the team’s board. A Pitt transfer who finished his career with Heisman winner Caleb Williams, Addison spent time with the Giants during the pre-draft process. The team adding Parris Campbell and Jamison Crowder and re-signing Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton — along with the 2022 second-round selection of Wan’Dale Robinson — certainly does not point to this Giants regime mandating big-bodied wideouts. While Flowers is 5-9, Addison is only 5-11. One of these two stepping in as a potential No. 1 target would round out an interesting receiver room.
  • Shifting to a taller target, the Buccaneers are believed to be interested in 6-3 TCU alum Quentin Johnston, ProFootballNetwork.com’s Tony Pauline offers. The Bucs would make for an unexpected Johnston destination, as they have Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and 2022 free agency addition Russell Gage on the roster. Gage, however, underwhelmed in his Tampa Bay debut, while Evans is entering his age-30 season. The Chiefs are also interested in Johnston, with Pauline confirming previous reports Kansas City is both pro-Johnston and interested in trading up from No. 31.
  • Being moved to the Steelers, Allen Robinson will be prepared to work with yet another starting quarterback this year. But the well-traveled wideout will have a delayed start for on-field Steeler work. The team will hold its new receiver out of voluntary offseason workouts, per The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly (on Twitter). Robinson is recovering from late-season foot surgery. He missed the Rams’ final seven games last season due to injury.
  • Ryan Poles confirmed D.J. Moore was indeed mandatory in the Bears‘ March trade with the Panthers. “You go back and forth and have those conversations that go over a couple of weeks, and there are some non-negotiables that you say, ‘Well, I need to have this in the package.’ DJ was that for us,” Poles said during an interview with former NFLers Charles Tillman and Roman Harper on the NFL Players: Second Acts podcast (h/t Pro Football Network). “We wanted to add more playmakers to this roster. We wanted a player that can really help Justin [Fields] be successful. So that’s kind of [what] we stuck with and went hard on that, and it worked out.” The Bears also discussed Brian Burns and Derrick Brown with the Panthers but ended up prying away their No. 1 receiver in the deal for the top pick.

Bears-Panthers Trade Fallout: Timeline, QB Plans, Moore

The Bears made history Friday by becoming the first NFL team to trade the No. 1 pick in the draft prior to April – since the draft was moved to April in 1976. Their return from the Panthers – four draft picks spread across three years and receiver D.J. Moore – will go a long way in determining both team’s futures for years to come.

Further details have emerged regarding the blockbuster deal, including the negotiating process which led up to the deal being finalized. Talks started at the Combine, with the Panthers being one of a number of teams reaching out to the Bears, per ESPN’s Courtney Cronin and David Newton. That comes as little surprise, considering how willing Bears GM Ryan Poles was to move down the board, given his and the team’s support of quarterback Justin FieldsThe ESPN duo add that talks intensified over the past few days, and Friday’s negotiations were sufficient to consummate the trade before the start of free agency this coming week.

By moving up to the No. 1 slot, the Panthers now have a free choice of the 2023 class’ top quarterbacks. Newton reports, to no surprise, that QB is indeed the position which Carolina will use their top pick on (Twitter link). That will invite plenty of debate and speculation in the coming weeks, as this year boasts a number of intriguing options, but not necessarily a can’t-miss passer. Newton notes that the Panthers were high on Kentucky’s Will Levis at the end of the 2021 campaign, and the performances of Alabama’s Bryce Young and Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud also drew positive reviews from GM Scott Fitterer and Co.

Many have Young, the 2021 Heisman winner, rated as the top signal-caller in the class (which is headlined by the aforementioned three QBs, along with the raw but uber-athletic Anthony Richardson). However, Joe Person of The Athletic reports (subscription required) that Stroud is believed to be in pole position at the moment, one which obviously represents something well short of a final evaluation of any draft prospect on the Panthers’ part. The Buckeyes star put up huge production in his college career, and has long been discussed alongside Young as a blue-chip in the running to become the top passer out of this year’s class.

Interestingly, Newton adds that Carolina could become sufficiently content with more than one QB at the top of the board that they elect to trade down slightly; Person corroborates this (on Twitter). With the Texans (who hold the second overall pick) and Colts (No. 4) each in need of a new signal-caller, moving down any amount would carry a high degree of risk. If the Panthers were assured that at least one of their preferences would be available at their new slot, though, they could use a second trade to recoup some of the capital they spent to acquire the top pick.

Draft maneuvering and the success the Bears have in restocking their roster with the additional picks will be a key determining factor in the legacy of this trade, but the inclusion of Moore has immediate ramifications. Carolina was reluctant at first to include the 25-year-old in the trade package, but Person notes that the Bears viewed him as a “must-have” to finalize the deal (Twitter link). While losing Moore marks a substantial blow to the Panthers’ passing attack, Newton and Person add that his inclusion saved Carolina from having to add another first-round pick to their offer.

The way Carolina approaches their newfound leverage and which passer(s) emerge as their top targets will be an interesting storyline to watch in the coming weeks. The willingness Poles had to move out of the top slot so quickly, meanwhile, will be a key takeaway from the Bears’ perspective as attention will turn to how Chicago uses their added draft capital for the next few years.

Panthers To Acquire 2023 No. 1 Pick From Bears

It has long been expected that the Bears would part with the top pick in this year’s draft. They have reportedly done so, shipping the No. 1 selection to the Panthers for a package including multiple first-rounders (Twitter link via NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport).

The full compensation coming Chicago’s way, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter (on Twitter) is as follows: picks No. 9 and 61 in 2023, the Panthers’ first-round pick in 2024, their second-rounder in 2025 and receiver D.J. Moore. That will make this deal a franchise-altering one for both parties, as the Bears acquire substantial draft capital along with a proven No. 1 wideout, while the Panthers will have a prime opportunity to land a long-term option at the quarterback position.

Bears GM Ryan Poles has been consistent in his praise of quarterback Justin Fields, leaving the door wide open to a move down the board. He said upon learning that Chicago had the top selection (rather than the QB-needy Texans, who will pick second) that he would need to be “blown away” by this year’s class of passers to consider staying at No. 1 and replacing Fields. The latter took a step forward in terms of production, particularly on the ground, in 2022, but questions remain about his potential as a passer. The Bears are clearly staying true to their commitment to him in 2023 and beyond.

Only twice in the 21st century has the top selection been traded, and a No. 1 pick has never been dealt in the month of March. Poles recently hinted at that being a possibility, and it has now come to fruition. Rapoport adds that part of the reason this blockbuster is taking place now is the Bears’ desire to land Moore prior to free agency opening next week (Twitter link).

The 2018 first-rounder immediately established himself as a focal point of the Panthers’ passing attack, recording three consecutive seasons of 1,100+ receiving yards from 2019-21. He has been targeted at least 118 times in all but his rookie campaign, and scored 21 touchdowns across his five seasons in the league (including a career-high seven in 2022). Moore, 25, is under contract through 2025 with scheduled cap hits of over $20MM in each of the next three years.

The Maryland alum’s base salaries (ranging from $14.85MM to $19.965MM) could turn out to be money well spent for the Bears, a team which has been in dire need of a true impact-making wideout to unlock Fields’ potential. They traded for N’Keal Harry and Chase Claypool from the Patriots and Steelers, respectively, in 2022, though neither young pass-catcher was able to put up significant numbers in their time in the Windy City. Moore will slot atop the WR depth chart and increase expectations dramatically for Fields and Co. in his third NFL season.

The Panthers were one of many teams thought to be in the market for a significant addition at the quarterback position this offseason. The draft has long been considered their preferred route to find a legitimate Cam Newton successor; this deal will give them that opportunity. Rather than jockeying with teams like the Texans, Raiders and Colts in the top-10, Carolina will jump to the front of the line and have their pick of the lot amongst the 2023 QB class.

Alabama’s Bryce Young is generally regarded as the top signal-caller available this year. The 2021 Heisman winner has drawn plenty of questions about his frame and build with respect to withstanding NFL contact, but his production across the past two seasons makes him an appealing prospect. Young was at the Combine for measurements, but did not take part in drills, unlike other high-end signal callers C.J. Stroud, Will Levis and Anthony Richardson.

The Panthers’ preference amongst those four options will go a long way in determining the future of their franchise. Meanwhile, it will be worth monitoring how this shake-up affects other teams in need of drafting a quarterback who are now no longer in the running to trade up to No. 1. The Bears now have even more draft capital than they did before today, and a top-10 pick should still allow them to secure an impact player for the foreseeable future. That, coupled with their league-leading cap space, will allow them to be highly aggressive this offseason.

Packers Attempted To Acquire Raiders TE Darren Waller At Deadline

According to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com, as well as Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero of NFL.com, the Packers attempted to acquire Raiders tight end Darren Waller prior to Tuesday’s trade deadline. We already knew that Green Bay had offered a second-round choice for Steelers wide receiver Chase Claypool — whom Pittsburgh ultimately sent to the Bears, as it believed the second-rounder it received from Chicago would be more valuable than the Packers’ selection — and we also learned previously that the team was interested in potential TE upgrades. We now know that Waller was one such TE target.

Waller, 30, signed a three-year, $51MM extension with the Raiders in September, but he is dealing with serious injury issues for the second straight season. The 2020 Pro Bowler was limited to 11 games in 2021, and he is expected to miss his third consecutive game on Sunday as a result of a hamstring ailment. Plus, after catching 10 balls for 129 yards and a score in the first two games of the 2022 campaign, he was limited to six catches for 46 yards in the next two contests. He played just eight snaps in Week 5 before injuring his hamstring.

Still, a healthy Waller is one of the game’s better receiving tight ends, and assuming he gets back to full strength soon, he would have been a nice weapon for a Packers offense that is just outside the bottom-10 in passing yards per game. Part of that disappointing ranking is due to a rash of injury problems that have impacted the club’s pass-catching contingent; Allen Lazard missed Green Bay’s Week 8 loss to the Bills due to a shoulder injury, Randall Cobb is on IR with an ankle injury, Sammy Watkins has missed time with hamstring troubles of his own, and Christian Watson exited the Buffalo game with a concussion. Injecting another player with health concerns into that mix might have been something of a risk, but GM Brian Gutekunst was clearly hoping a bold move might save Green Bay’s season.

Indeed, while Claypool was, according to Schefter, Gutekunst’s “primary focus,” the team also called the Panthers to discuss D.J. Moore, per Rapoport and Pelissero (though Schefter says the Packers were not interested in Texans receiver Brandin Cooks). Carolina, which rebuffed a massive offer for DE Brian Burns, also turned away the Moore inquiries, even though Jay Glazer of FOX Sports reports the Packers were willing to deal a first-round pick (via Marcus Mosher of Pro Football Focus on Twitter). Schefter adds that, in an effort to close a Claypool trade, the Packers added a late-round pick to the second-rounder it was prepared to send to the Steelers, but apparently Pittsburgh valued Chicago’s Round 2 choice over Green Bay’s two-pick proposal.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who could be in the midst of his final season, publicly expressed his appreciation for the front office’s efforts. “The compensation for whatever players we were going after just didn’t make sense,” Rodgers said. “So I trust [Gutekunst]. We had some good conversations. We were in on some things. It just didn’t pan out.”

Meanwhile, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk believes the ESPN and NFL.com reports, which were both published early Sunday morning, were based on leaks from the team designed specifically to appease Rodgers, and that the Green Bay front office did not actually want to make a deal. Regardless of the veracity of that claim, the end result is the same: if the 3-5 Packers are to salvage what could be Rodgers’ last stand, their existing talent will need to get healthy and turn things around in a hurry, as the only receiving help they can add at this point is free agent Odell Beckham Jr.

As an interesting aside, this is the second time this year the Packers and Raiders have discussed Waller, who was part of the talks that culminated in the blockbuster Davante Adams trade in March.

Latest On Panthers, Brian Burns

After dealing Robbie Anderson and Christian McCaffrey, the Panthers seem unwilling to strip away pieces from their homegrown young core. Brian Burns‘ name has headlined this group, but teams have still discussed the fourth-year defensive end with the Panthers.

The Panthers look to have made it known they do not want to deal Burns, and Adam Schefter of ESPN.com noting the team turned down an offer of two first-round picks for the Pro Bowl pass rusher. Burns would make for a lower-profile addition to the exclusive club of defenders dealt for two first-round picks in recent years. Khalil Mack, Jalen Ramsey and Jamal Adams each had an All-Pro nod on their respective resumes by the time they were moved for packages fronted by two first-rounders. Burns is a one-time Pro Bowler.

That report also surprised various teams around the league. A high-ranking exec said the Panthers wanted first- and second-round picks for Burns during his team’s talks with Carolina, per Jason La Canfora of the Washington Post. Other evaluators surveyed here believe that if the Panthers were indeed offered two firsts for Burns they should take it, JLC adds. Burns, 24, is moving toward a second Pro Bowl season, but the former first-rounder has yet to cross the 10-sack barrier in a campaign.

Still, the Panthers should be considered unlikely to deal Burns, D.J. Moore or Jeremy Chinn. The Panthers have also told teams they are not trading Derrick Brown or Jaycee Horn, Schefter adds. Brown can be controlled through 2024 and Horn through 2025, via the fifth-year option. The Panthers have made Shaq Thompson available, but the Burns-Chinn-Moore-Brown core — which is naturally more appealing to teams due to the performers’ ages — is being protected. The Panthers continue to discuss Moore with teams, however, La Canfora adds. Thus far, the team is resisting this trade interest.

The Rams are viewed as a team likely to have made a strong offer for Burns, La Canfora adds, with The Athletic’s Jourdan Rodrigue indicating the team should be expected to pursue edge players before the deadline (Twitter link). Los Angeles has acquired Ramsey, Von Miller and Dante Fowler at recent trade deadlines, using Day 1 and Day 2 picks to land these defenders. The Fowler and Miller moves helped those respective Rams editions to Super Bowls. The Rams do not have their 2023 first-round pick. That would seem to impact any Burns pursuit, though the team could likely land other potentially available edges without a first-rounder being necessary.

Miller choosing the Bills in free agency set back the Rams’ pass rush, however. Leonard Floyd entered the season as the defending champions’ top edge rusher; the $16MM-per-year sack artist is sackless through six games. Although Ramsey and off-ball linebacker Bobby Wagner have two sacks apiece, Aaron Donald (four) is the only Rams rusher to have registered more than one sack this season.

Carolina has added three 2023 picks, two 2024 choices and a 2025 selection for dealing McCaffrey and Anderson. Moving Thompson, 28, would add to this growing draft arsenal. But Carolina’s collection of young talent — on display during the team’s 21-3 Week 7 win over the Buccaneers — figures to still come up in conversations ahead of the Nov. 1 deadline. Trading one of those players could move the needle further for GM Scott Fitterer, a Matt Rhule-era hire who should not be considered — based on how David Tepper proceeded with former GM Marty Hurney during Rhule’s time — a lock to be the one making these draft picks. That said, Tepper backed Fitterer in the wake of Rhule’s firing.

Panthers Willing To Trade LB Shaq Thompson

The last Panther left from the team’s Super Bowl 50 lineup, Shaq Thompson has started all six Carolina games this season. The Ron Rivera-era investment is the franchise’s longest-tenured starter by two seasons.

As Carolina transitions away from its Matt Rhule period, Thompson is a player that could be moved. The Panthers are willing to listen to trade offers for the eighth-year linebacker, Albert Breer of SI.com notes. Thompson joins Christian McCaffrey, the team’s longest-tenured offensive starter, in being mentioned as a trade chip for the retooling team.

Brian Burns and D.J. Moore continue to generate the most interest, per Breer (on Twitter), but the team appears set against moving its top pass rusher and wide receiver. Burns remains on a rookie contract, while Moore just signed an extension in March. Thompson’s second contract came back in 2019 — a four-year, $54.16MM deal.

While Burns and Moore’s statuses stop the Panthers short of a full-on firesale, the presences of McCaffrey and Thompson on the trade block — after Robbie Anderson was dealt — make this one of the more interesting pre-deadline situations in recent years.

Like McCaffrey, Thompson could appeal as a 2022 trade piece due to a restructure agreement. To create cap space earlier this year, Carolina reduced Thompson’s base salary to $1.12MM. A team that acquired the 28-year-old linebacker would be responsible for less than $800K of his veteran-minimum wage. Thompson’s contract arrangement is somewhat similar to McCaffrey’s, only the defender’s future nonguaranteed salaries only run through 2023 rather than 2025. Thompson is due $12.36MM next year.

The Panthers trading Thompson now would cost them $11.27MM in dead money while saving barely $1MM. But the 95-game starter could produce additional draft assets that would make such a hit more palatable to a Panthers team not in position to contend this season.

Brought in to play alongside Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis, Thompson joined the acclaimed duo as a rookie-year starter — albeit in a non-three-down capacity — during the team’s 15-1 2015 season. Kuechly’s unexpected retirement following the 2019 campaign thrust Thompson into an anchor role on Carolina’s defensive second level, and he has displayed decent durability both before and after that role change came to pass. The Washington alum has never missed more than three games in a season.

Pro Football Focus ranks Thompson as a top-five linebacker against the run this year. Although Thompson has 11.5 career sacks and three 100-plus-tackle seasons, he has never made a Pro Bowl. He joins Rhule pickups Cory Littleton and Frankie Luvu as the team’s primary linebackers. Considering Littleton’s one-year deal and Thompson’s high 2023 cap number, linebacker stands to be one of the Panthers’ needs next year.

Teams Calling Panthers On Christian McCaffrey; WR Robbie Anderson Available

As they did this spring, the Panthers are receiving calls on Christian McCaffrey‘s potential availability. While the team is listening to offers for the former All-Pro running back, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com notes it shut down multiple inquiries recently.

Matt Rhule‘s firing may or may not have spurred these calls, with Schefter adding the Panthers discussed McCaffrey with multiple teams last week. Carolina rebuffed two teams on CMC at that point and is not planning to accept a below-market trade just to move the sixth-year back, Schefter adds. But McCaffrey trade buzz has been building over the past several days.

The Panthers have received “many calls” on players in the wake of Rhule’s firing, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports, but McCaffrey has generated the most interest. CMC is tied to the four-year, $64MM extension he signed back in April 2020. It will take an “overwhelming” return to convince Carolina to move on from its longtime running back, Rapoport adds. This reminds of the team’s ask when McCaffrey’s name came up in trades in March. The Panthers wanted a first-round pick and a player on a manageable deal at that point.

McCaffrey profiles as perhaps the Panthers’ most interesting trade candidate, due to his profile and the unlikelihood the Panthers part ways with Brian Burns or D.J. Moore. While the latter duo look like longer-term Panthers cogs, due to age an positional value, McCaffrey is still just 26. And he has played in each of Carolina’s five games this season, temporarily minimizing concerns about his extensive injury past. Moore indeed is being viewed as untradeable, Rapoport adds, with the recently extended wideout being considered a big part of the franchise’s future. Carolina is also resistant to move pieces off its rebuilt offensive line, per Rapoport.

Burns and defensive tackle Derrick Brown are not believed to be on the table, Schefter adds (on Twitter). Teams are understandably interested in both young D-linemen, but each makes sense as a player the Panthers want to build around beyond 2022. The franchise has a different stance on Robbie Anderson, whom Rapoport and Schefter identify as a player who could be had in a trade. Conversations have occurred on Anderson, per Schefter.

Anderson, one of the many Temple alums who joined the team during Rhule’s tenure, has underwhelmed since a strong 2020 Carolina debut. Still, the ex-Jet deep threat posted a 95-catch, 1,096-yard season in 2020, enticing the Panthers to extend him. Anderson is signed through the 2023 season, via the two-year, $29.5MM extension he signed in 2021.

The former UDFA, who is going through his age-29 season, is tied to just a $1MM base salary this year. Carolina restructured Anderson’s contract this offseason. The deal calls for a nonguaranteed $8.8MM salary in 2023. The restructure could make Anderson, his recent struggles (albeit with a bottom-end quarterback situation) notwithstanding, an interesting trade chip. Anderson, who totaled just 519 yards in 2021 despite playing 17 games, has 13 receptions for 206 yards this year. Anderson came up in trade talks with the Patriots this offseason, but New England moved on with a DeVante Parker swap.

McCaffrey, whose deal runs through 2025, has appeared on Carolina’s injury report multiple times but has not run into the kind of trouble he experienced over the past two years. Multiple leg injuries led to McCaffrey missing 23 games since 2020, weakening Carolina’s Rhule-era offense. He has amassed 512 scrimmage yards and scored three touchdowns this season.

No guaranteed money remains on McCaffrey’s deal beyond 2022, and thanks to a 2022 restructure, he is also down to a league-minimum salary this season. The second-generation NFLer is due $11.8MM in 2023 and ’24, however, and $12MM in 2025. It would cost the Panthers $7.6MM in dead money if they dealt McCaffrey before the Nov. 1 deadline.

Panthers Not Looking To Trade Christian McCaffrey, D.J. Moore, Brian Burns

Early in the fallout from Matt Rhule‘s firing, reports emerged pointing the Panthers to a potential firesale. A day later, a Carolina potential trade-block flood seems less likely.

The Panthers are not actively shopping Christian McCaffrey, according to The Athletic’s Jeff Howe (subscription required). Multiple reports indicated the former All-Pro running back would be a name to monitor ahead of the Nov. 1 deadline, and while Tuesday’s latest does not slam the door on McCaffrey being moved, Howe notes the team wants to build around its young core rather than dismantle it.

This does not mean interest has not come in. Teams have inquired about wideout D.J. Moore and edge rusher Brian Burns, according to SI.com’s Albert Breer. The Panthers have not shown a willingness to part with either starter, Breer adds, but these two names have generated the most interest thus far.

Additionally, the Bills have not contacted the Panthers regarding McCaffrey’s availability, Howe notes. Run by ex-Carolina staffers Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott, Buffalo has acquired many former Panthers. But a move to land the $16MM-per-year back, months after drafting James Cook in the second round, may be a bridge too far for now.

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Carolina just extended Moore — on a three-year, $61.88MM deal — and have expressed a desire to pay Burns, who will enter his fifth-year option season in 2023. Both players were acquired before Rhule arrived, even though the since-fired HC signed off on Moore’s extension this March. Although Carolina’s quarterback issues have restrained its passing attack, Moore, 25, has continued to produce. He topped 1,100 receiving yards in each season from 2019-21. This year, however, the former first-round pick’s stats are down (197 yards through five games). Burns, 24, has four sacks and six QB hits. He will be on track to become one of the league’s highest-paid edge defenders come 2023, and it looks like the Panthers want to be the team authorizing that contract.

Neither interim HC Steve Wilks nor new Panthers defensive play-caller Al Holcomb were in place when either player was drafted. Ditto GM Scott Fitterer. But it would still surprise to see Carolina deal away two mid-20s cornerstones this season. Doing so would indeed signal David Tepper signing off on a full-scale rebuild.

McCaffrey is currently healthy, marking his longest run of availability during the 2020s. Injuries sidetracked the former top-10 pick’s career following his dominant 2019 season — one that set him up for the still-market-topping extension he signed in April 2020 — but the sixth-year back obviously remains one of the Panthers’ best players. McCaffrey, 26, is not on his 2019 pace (2,392 yards from scrimmage), posting only 512 scrimmage yards in five games. But his health has certainly brought better news compared to his previous two seasons — when the second-generation pro missed 23 games.

The team restructured McCaffrey’s deal, reducing his 2022 base salary to barely $1MM, and listened to trade inquiries this offseason. Given McCaffrey’s health history, the team’s willingness to do a deal and the kind of offers that come in will be interesting as the deadline nears. For now, however, the Panthers are sitting tight with CMC. Three more seasons remain on McCaffrey’s contract. His salaries spike to $11.8MM (in 2023 and ’24) and $12MM (2025).