After a rollercoaster first NFL season as the Carolina Panthers quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater’s contract is likely to be in sharp focus over the coming months. With the Carolina Panthers in a position to potentially draft a QB in April, how does Teddy Bridgewater’s contract shape up, what impact does it have on the Panthers’ salary cap, and what options do the Panthers have?
Teddy Bridgewater signed a three-year contract in Carolina
After spending two seasons with the New Orleans Saints as Drew Brees’ backup, Bridgewater hit free agency in 2020. He signed a three-year contract in Carolina worth $63 million. Within the contract, there is $33 million guaranteed, with a $15 million signing bonus.
Teddy Bridgewater has two years remaining on his contract
The three-year contract that Bridgewater signed in Carolina is set to keep him with the Panthers until 2022. 2021 will be the second season the contract leaving him with one more year remaining on the deal following the 2021 season. Additionally, 2021 will be the final season that Bridgewater has guaranteed money on his deal.
What impact does Bridgewater have on the Panthers’ salary cap in 2021?
Bridgewater’s 2021 cap number is $22.95 million. Base salary makes up $17 million of that, $5 million is the prorated signing bonus, $0.7 million in per-game roster bonuses, and $0.25 million in workout bonus.
The Panthers have a projected $7 million in cap space this year, so they are one of the many teams expected to be looking to free up cap space in 2021. However, with $10 million in guaranteed salary, they have limited options with Bridgewater in 2021.
What options do the Panthers have with Teddy Bridgewater’s contract?
If the Packers were looking to open cap space, they have limited options when it comes to Teddy Bridgewater and his contract. Let’s take a look at their options when it comes to releasing, trading, restructuring, or extending Bridgewater.
The Panthers would save little by cutting Bridgewater
Due to the $10 million in guaranteed salary remaining on Teddy Bridgewater’s contract in 2021, cutting him is not really an option. With the extra $5 million in prorated signing bonus accelerating onto the cap, Bridgewater would leave $20 million in dead money with the Panthers. Designating Bridgewater as a post-June 1 cut would save $5 million after that date. However, that saving is relatively insignificant and does not help the Panthers significantly in free agency.
The Panthers could free up over $10 million by trading Bridgewater
If the Panthers were to trade Teddy Bridgewater and his contract, they could save an extra $10 million against the cap. The guaranteed salary in Bridgewater’s contract would move over to the team acquiring him. Therefore, all the Panthers would be left with is $10 million in dead money.
Trading Bridgewater would save around $13 million on his projected cap hit of just under $23 million.
Could the Panthers consider restructuring Teddy Bridgewater’s contract?
A restructure of Bridgewater’s deal is certainly a short-term fix. However, with Bridgewater having no guaranteed salary in 2022, the Panthers can cut him for a cost of just $5 million in dead money next offseason. Any restructure they do now pushes more money into that 2022 season. As it stands, Bridgewater has a cap number of $26 million. The Panthers certainly do not want to be paying him more than that next season.
A restructure could be a short-term fix, but with the Panthers likely still to be rebuilding in 2021, hamstringing themselves further in 2022 would make for an odd decision. However, if they are looking to make a splash addition in March, a restructure could be a way to fund that.
According to Over the Cap, restructuring Teddy Bridgewater’s contract could save as much as $8 million.
Would the Panthers consider extending Bridgewater?
The answer here is likely “no” based on 2021. Bridgewater did not put together a season that would make the Panthers excited about a potential extension. However, with Christian McCaffrey absent all season, the circumstances could be mitigated. An extension could save as much as $13 million, according to Over The Cap.
The Panthers’ issue would be that any extension would come with more guaranteed money deeper into the deal. By signing Bridgewater to an extension, they could just be pushing this decision a year or two into the future.
A potential option would be to go to Teddy Bridgewater and discuss adding void years to his contract. The Panthers could convert some money to a signing bonus and spread the cap hit across up to five years. They could reduce Bridgewater’s salary by $15 million this year and add three void years. That would spread the prorated bonus out as $3 million cap hits for the next five seasons.
However, it would have an impact next season as well. Raising Bridgewater above a $26 million cap hit in 2022 is not ideal. Equally, going from $5 million in dead money to potentially $17 million would make releasing him a tough decision. Without a trade partner, the Panthers will likely have to keep Bridgewater at his $22.95 million cap number in 2021.
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