While much of the focus in Carolina is on the Panthers’ pursuit of Deshaun Watson, the team continues to open up some additional cap space. ESPN’s Field Yates reports (via Twitter) that the Panthers have restructured offensive lineman Pat Elflein‘s contract.
The front office converted $4.86MM of the player’s 2022 compensation into a signing bonus, creating an additional $2.4MM in cap space. Per Yates, the team is now “closing in” on close to $30MM in cap space.
The Panthers added Elflein on the first day of free agency in 2021, with the lineman inking a three-year, $13.5MM deal. He started all nine of his games during his first season with the organization, but he missed a chunk of the season while dealing with a hamstring issue.
The 27-year-old started his career with the Vikings, starting 43 of his 44 games. He split the 2020 season between the Vikings and the Jets.
As Joseph Person of The Athletic (subscription required) writes, the Panthers are likely to part ways with center Matt Paradis, who is eligible for free agency. Pat Elflein, who opened the 2021 season as Carolina’s left guard but who moved over to center following Paradis’ injury, is likely to continue as the starting pivot despite his struggles in that role.
Paradis, 32, signed a three-year, $27MM contract with the Panthers in March 2019, and he started every game for the club from Week 1 of the 2019 season through Week 9 of the 2021 campaign. Unfortunately, a torn ACL suffered in that Week 9 contest ended his walk year prematurely, and it leaves him in a less-than-desirable position as he hits the open market for the second time in his career (interestingly, when he hooked on with the Panthers in 2019, he was coming off a serious leg injury that he sustained in November 2018, which may have limited his earnings then in the same way that his recent ACL tear will limit his earnings now).
Still, given his track record as a solid starter and the fact that he has been quite durable except when he’s playing out a contract year, he should garner a fair amount of attention from teams in need of a center. The Bengals, Jets, and Jaguars are all rumored to be interested in Bucs center Ryan Jensen, and Tampa Bay wants to retain its four-year starter. The losers of the Jensen sweepstakes could turn to Paradis, and the Ravens, who may be unable to afford a new contract for Bradley Bozeman, could also be in play.
The Panthers, meanwhile, will have plenty of work to do on the O-line. Luckily for them, this year’s college class is deep at the LT position, and Carolina could net a high-quality prospect even if it trades down from its No. 6 overall selection. In a separate piece (subscription required), Person opines that the Panthers will not be in the market for a high-priced free agent like longtime division-rival Terron Armstead, so the draft would be the place to nab a blindside blocker. Person does expect the team to sign a free agent guard, and while Brandon Scherff and Laken Tomlinson may be too pricey, old friend Andrew Norwell or Bears OL James Daniels could be viable targets.
In related news, Person says the Panthers do want edge defender Haason Reddick back, but only if the price is right. We recently heard that Reddick is likely to test the open market for the second year in a row. And while the club has not shut the door on a new contract for CB Stephon Gilmore, Person hears that the team is prioritizing a deal with fellow corner Donte Jackson, who is five years younger than Gilmore (both players are also eligible for free agency). GM Scott Fitterer is also doing his due diligence on available safeties.
The Panthers will welcome back a key member of their offensive line this weekend. The team has activated guard Pat Elflein off injured reserve, reports Joe Person of The Athletic (via Twitter).
The 27-year-old landed on IR in September after suffering a hamstring injury. Elflein returned to practice back in October, and today was the deadline for the organization to activate him off IR. Per Jonathan M. Alexander of the Charlotte Observer, the lineman was expected to return earlier but suffered a setback.
The former third-round pick spent the beginning of his career with the Vikings, starting 43 of his 44 appearances. He split the 2020 season between the Vikings and the Jets, and he landed in Carolina this offseason on a three-year, $13.5MM deal. He started each of his two games this season, including a Week 1 win where he appeared in 95 percent of his team’s offensive snaps.
It remains to be seen if Elflein will slide back into the starting lineup for this weekend’s game against the Patriots. The Panthers offensive line has improved over the past few weeks, so the organization could end up sticking with backups Michael Jordan and Trenton Scott in the staring lineup.
A hamstring injury forced Elflein out of Sunday’s win over the Saints during the first half. Matt Rhule had already ruled Elflein out of Thursday’s game against the Texans, but the veteran interior lineman will now have more time to recover. He will miss at least Carolina’s next three games — against Houston, Dallas and Philadelphia.
Dennis Daley replaced Elflein in Carolina’s lineup Sunday and will be in line to start Thursday. Daley started at right guard to open the season but returned to the bench initially in Week 2, with John Miller back at his post. A 2019 sixth-round pick, Daley made nine starts as a rookie and three last season.
Elflein, 27, is no stranger to injury trouble. A knee issue in Week 1 of the 2020 season led to the Vikings placing him on IR. They eventually waived their former starting center and guard, and the Jets claimed him. The Panthers signed Elflein to a three-year, $13.5MM deal in March.
Pat Elflein is joining up with the Panthers. The former Vikings and Jets offensive lineman has agreed to a three-year, $13.5MM deal with $6MM fully guaranteed at signing, as ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter tweets.
Elflein started 15 games at guard for the Vikings in 2019, and he started the 2020 season opener before suffering a torn thumb ligament. That injury forced him to the injured reserve list. And, shortly after returning to practice, the Vikings released him. That led him to the Jets, who were 0-9 at the time and had the league’s No. 1 waiver priority spot.
The Jaguars, Bears, Dolphins, Ravens, and the Washington Football Team also entered bids for Elflein — it’s not clear if the Panthers were also in that group. Either way, they were keenly interested this time around. Elflein will now be tasked with clearing lanes for Christian McCaffrey and protecting the starting quarterback, who may or may not beTeddy Bridgewater.
Add veteran NFL reporter Tyler Dunne of GoLongTD.com to the list of writers who have heard that Texans QB Deshaun Watson is not budging on his desire to be traded, and that he continues to ignore every call from Houston brass. Of course, Watson has a no-trade clause that he could use to help dictate where he goes — assuming the Texans give in and deal him, which they have insisted they are not going to do — and we recently heard that the 49ers and Broncosare on his destination list.
Dunne’s source indicates that the Dolphins — who have been considered one of the frontrunners for Watson since trade speculation started to swirl — and the Niners are Watson’s top two preferred clubs. In Dunne’s view, a trade to Miami makes too much sense to not happen, and he believes the ‘Fins and Texans could line up on a deal that sends Watson to South Beach in exchange for the No. 3 and No. 18 overall picks in this year’s draft along with Miami’s 2022 first-rounder.
Now for more rumors from the AFC East:
Recent reports have indicated that Raiders QB Marcus Mariota is generating legitimate trade interest, and Mike Reiss of ESPN.com believes the Patriots could be in the mix. New England obviously needs a quarterback, and Mariota is attached to a reasonable $10.6MM salary for 2021 and would not cost much to acquire in terms of draft capital. Although he could demand a raise if he is being acquired to serve as a starter, his current salary would not preclude the Pats from continuing to explore other options, like Jimmy Garoppolo — if the the 49ers land a different QB and release Garoppolo — or a collegiate passer.
Reiss does not expect the Patriots to make a deal with the division-rival Jets for Gang Green QB Sam Darnold, though what the Jets do with Darnold could certainly have a major impact on New England (for instance, if New York trades Darnold to San Francisco, Garoppolo could become available).
The Jets have among the most cap space in the league at just shy of $70MM, and they can easily create even more flexibility, thereby giving them a huge advantage in what could be a buyer’s market given the decreased salary cap. Connor Hughes of The Athletic believes New York will release DE Henry Anderson, which jibes with a report from December. That move will save the club $8.2MM in cap space, and Hughes suggests that guards Greg Van Roten and Alex Lewis might be goners as well (their releases would save $3.4MM and $5.1MM, respectively).
Meanwhile the Jets don’t have too many of their own free agents that must be retained. Hughes expects safety Marcus Maye to be re-signed, and he also says OL Pat Elflein — who played well in 2020 after being claimed off waivers from the Vikings — is a logical candidate to return, especially if the team moves on from Van Roten and/or Lewis.
November 16th, 2020 at 9:28pm CST by Zachary Links
The Jets, at least, have achieved something this year. On Monday, the Jets beat out five other NFL teams on the waiver wire when they picked up former Vikings offensive lineman Pat Elflein, a source tells Field Yates of ESPN.com (on Twitter). The Jaguars, Bears, Dolphins, Ravens, and the Washington Football Team all tried to claim the veteran, but the Jets’ 0-9 record gave them the upper hand.
Elflein started 15 games at guard in 2019, and he started the 2020 season opener before suffering a torn thumb ligament. That injury forced him to the injured reserve list. And, after returning to practice three weeks ago, his IR-DTR window had recently come to an end. Therefore, the Vikings had no other choice than to activate Elflein. One day later, they released the 26-year-old lineman.
The former third-rounder earned a spot on the All-Rookie Team in 2017 after starting 14 games at center for the Vikings. He played the same role in 2018, but he was switched to guard in 2019 after Minnesota drafted Garrett Bradbury in the first round of that year’s draft.
Elflein’s injury has hindered him, but he now says that he’s fully healthy. And, although his rookie contract will expire at the end of the year, the Jets will have the opportunity to evaluate him and potentially lock him up before he can reach the open market in March. The advanced metrics have never been fond of Elflein’s work, but quality linemen are in short supply, and plenty of teams were eager to take the low-cost risk before the Jets won out.