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Carolina Panthers’ salary cap situation heading into 2021

What is the Carolina Panthers’ salary cap situation in 2021, and how could they open up more salary cap space this offseason?

Carolina Panthers salary cap situation heading into 2021
TAMPA, FLORIDA - SEPTEMBER 20: Christian McCaffrey #22 of the Carolina Panthers celebrates with Teddy Bridgewater #5 after scoring a touchdown during the third quarter against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium on September 20, 2020 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

After a change in their front office this offseason, how much salary cap space do the Carolina Panthers have heading into the 2021 NFL league year? Let’s take a look at the Panthers’ salary cap situation, and what options they have for opening more cap space in the coming weeks.

The Panthers project to be around $37 million under the salary cap in 2021

As of February 28th, the 2021 salary cap projects to be around $185 million. The Panthers will carry over $4.3 million in cap space to the 2021 season. Therefore, the Panthers’ current salary cap projects to be $189.3 million.

As it stands, the Panthers have just under $129.2 million in commitments to their top 51 highest-paid players, with an additional $22.7 million in dead money. As such, the Panthers are currently around $37.4 million under the salary cap heading into 2021.

To view the most up-to-date numbers for the Carolina Panthers’ salary cap space, check out our team by team 2021 salary cap space article, which is updated daily.

Carolina has a handful of potential options for releasing players

The Panthers have already made a number of moves to open salary cap space this offseason. However, the Panthers do have a couple of options if they wanted to further extend their cap space for 2021.

Ian Thomas has failed to impress so far in his career

Thomas is set to enter his fourth season in the NFL. However, his returns have been unimpressive through his first three seasons. Thomas has a total of just 72 receptions, 614 receiving yards, and 4 receiving touchdowns. Entering the 2021 NFL season, Thomas is due to count $2.4 million against the Panthers’ salary cap.

Releasing Thomas could save the Panthers $2.2 million and leave just $187,000 in dead money.

The Panthers could move on from other defensive players this offseason

At 31 years of age, Zach Kerr played just 36.8 percent of the Panthers’ snaps in 2020. While he registered 9 QB hits, the Panthers could save $1.3 million in salary cap space if they were to release him. With a young defensive front, the likelihood is that they will want to keep the experience of Kerr around, especially with such limited savings in return.

Related | Top Carolina Panthers’ pending free agents in 2021

Cornerback Donte Jackson is set to enter the final season of his rookie deal. His snap percentage on defense has dropped in each of his three seasons with the Panthers. With potential salary cap savings in 2021 of $2.4 million for the Panthers, look for Jackson to be a possible cap casualty in the coming weeks.

The Panthers have players they can extend or restructure to create cap space in 2021

With the Panthers potentially in the market for Deshaun Watson and tackles Russell Okung and Taylor Moton set to become free agents, the Panthers may yet have more work to do to create salary cap space in 2021. Let’s look at some contracts they could either extend or restructure to open more salary cap cushion.

Could we see the Panthers extend the deals for Robby Anderson and D.J. Moore?

Robby Anderson is set to enter the second year of his two-year deal with the Carolina Panthers. Anderson impressed in 2020 with 95 receptions, 1,096 receiving yards, and 3 touchdowns. Due to count $12 million against the Panthers’ salary cap in 2021, extending Anderson could both ensure he remains with the franchise next season and open up salary cap room. A conventional restructure for Anderson could potentially save the Panthers as much as $5.6 million in salary cap space.

Meanwhile, D.J. Moore is set to enter the fourth year of his rookie deal. As a former first-round pick, he is eligible to be signed to a fifth-year option. That fifth-year option would be worth around $11.1 million, according to Over the Cap.

However, the Panthers could try and get an extension with Moore agreed to in the 2021 offseason — doing so could save the Panthers around $867,000 in salary cap space in 2021. In reality, an extension for Moore would lead to his cap number remaining flat.

Juston Burris is a potential candidate for an extension

After a successful first season in Carolina, where he played around 75 percent of the team snaps on defense, Burris is entering the final year of his deal in 2021. If the Panthers were to extend Burris, they could save around $1.9 million in salary cap space in 2021.

Teddy Bridgewater, Christian McCaffrey, and Shaq Thompson have contracts that could potentially be restructured

Bridgewater is entering the second year of his three-year deal in 2021. His salary cap number for the Panthers in 2021 is just below $23 million.

$15 million of that $23 million cap number is in prorated bonuses and guaranteed salary. Therefore, for the Panthers to save significant cap space, they would need to restructure Bridgewater’s deal. Restructuring could save around $8.1 million in salary cap space for the Panthers in 2021. However, doing so would make it harder for the Panthers to move on from Bridgewater, making a restructure a tough decision.

McCaffrey is realistically entering the final year of his rookie deal in 2021. He has another four years on his deal after 2021, meaning a McCaffrey restructure is one of the best ways for the Panthers to save salary cap space in 2021. A restructure for McCaffrey could save around $5.8 million.

Related | 2021 NFL Free Agency: Top 100 NFL Free Agents of 2021

Shaq Thompson is set to count $14.2 million against the Panthers’ salary cap for the 2021 NFL season. Releasing Thompson is not an option due to his salary cap hit and his importance to the Panthers’ defense. However, a restructure for Thompson could free up around $7.6 million in salary cap space for the Panthers in 2021.

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