But they could also start thinking longer-term, which they should probably do soon anyway.
They picked up the fifth-year option on wide receiver DJ Moore’s contract in May, which secures him through the 2022 season. Eventually, he’s in line to get paid much more than that $11.1 million option. Wide receiver deals aren’t getting any cheaper, so thinking ahead to what Moore’s next deal might look like (soon if not today) might be an option worth considering.
And options are always the key here.
The Panthers are still carrying a significant amount of dead money on the cap (over $42 million this year) for players no longer here. The largest chunk of that comes from quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who was shipped to Denver after one year of a three-year deal.
Overcommitting to unknown commodities (at least ones who aren’t clearly part of the foundation) is an expensive lesson, but it’s apparently one they learned.
This offseason, Reddick and defensive tackle DaQuan Jones and cornerback Rashaan Melvin came in on one-year deals. Quarterback Sam Darnold (after his option was picked up), Bouye, Cameron Erving, Morgan Fox, Dan Arnold, Denzel Perryman, and wide receiver David Moore have two-year contracts. Offensive lineman Pat Elflein was the only free agent acquisition to get a deal longer than two years.
That gives the Panthers time to decide if those new players are part of the long-term answer here, without exposing the team to more potential sunk costs against the cap if they’re not.
In fact, the entire roster is built to limit their exposure to paying for other people’s decisions. There are 31 players on the roster whose contracts run through 2023 or beyond. Only five of those players (Moton, Christian McCaffrey, Shaq Thompson, Brian Burns, and Christian Miller) were acquired before head coach Matt Rhule was hired.
The result is a younger team, a leaner salary cap in future years, and team built almost entirely on one set of blueprints.
And, as became evident during the draft, it’s a roster designed to give them maximum flexibility.
Keeping Moton around was an easy call for them, since he has the added benefit of being an object lesson. Show up every day, be dependable and great at your job, and the rewards will follow.
The fact that he also gives them options to do other things made it easier still.