Panthers Rescind Franchise Tag on Josh Norman

In a bit of stunning news the Carolina Panthers have agreed to remove the franchise tag on Josh Norman making him an unrestricted free agent. The Panthers were unable to come to a long term agreement with Norman and decided it was best to just move on rather than pay him $13.952 million for the season. This is not something that is common in the NFL. I think its happened maybe once in the last decade. So lets look at a few things concenring the move. Continue reading Panthers Rescind Franchise Tag on Josh Norman »

2016 Cap Analytics: Carolina Panthers

Expected Contract OutcomesExpected Contract Value 2.0 utilizes an algorithm based on a player’s contract characteristics, age, position and 2015 performance to forecast probabilities as to the outcomes of contract termination decisions.   The lower the Expected Outcome, the more likely the player’s contract will be terminated in 2016.  A pay cut is treated as a termination.  We have applied ECV 2.0 to all contracts scheduled to count $2 million or more against the 2016 salary cap with the exception of exercised 5th year rookie options.  Expected Savings is the calculated by multiplying the probability a player will be released by the cap savings realized by the team upon such release.

Continue reading 2016 Cap Analytics: Carolina Panthers »

Cowboys Lead the Way with Injury Lost Cap Dollars

Each year teams set their salary cap for hopes of maximizing their roster efficiency in a given year. Injuries can throw all the planning a team makes out of wack, putting millions upon millions of dollars on the sidelines and leaving a team thin with talent. So what teams are being impacted the most by injuries as they take the field today?  Read on… Continue reading Cowboys Lead the Way with Injury Lost Cap Dollars »

Panthers 2015 Salary Cap Outlook

Estimated 2015 Cap Space: $15M ($143M cap limit)

Roster Overview

Players Under Contract: 58
Pro Bowlers: 2
Unrestricted Free Agents: 11(2 with 50%+ playtime)
Draft Selection: 25

Salary Cap Breakdown

Panthers 2015 Salary Cap

Panthers Offensive Spending

Panthers defensive spending

Free Agents to Re-sign

I don’t believe there is a compelling case for the Panthers to retain any notable free agents. Dwan Edwards and Colin Cole can be decent rotational players, but both are in their mid 30’s and near the end of their careers. Unless they are willing to sign for the minimum the team should find younger options that can fill the void. They may already have one in Kyle Love….Fernando Velasco can help out on the line and will sign for the minimum, but again this is a player on the wrong side of the age divider.

Free Agents to Let Walk

Nobody will deny how good Greg Hardy can be on the field, but after paying Hardy all that money to sit at home last season because of his off the field issues, I can’t imagine them entertaining the idea of bringing him back. He will cost a fortune as he will likely be the top rated available pass rusher once Justin Houston and Jason Pierre-Paul are franchised or extended. With Charles Johnson sitting with a $20M cap hit there is really no room for him either…Byron Bell did not distinguish himself last season as a starting left tackle and has already stated he won’t be back in 2015. He may be better suited to playing right tackle again…. The team has solid options without Chase Blackburn and can do without him, though I could see them bringing him back on a minimum salary contract…Edwards and Cole were both discussed in the prior section.

Contracts to Modify

The Panthers are finally out of the salary cap positon where they are going to be forced to rework bad contracts for cap relief, but if they want to add to the team in free agency there are certainly deals to be reworked. It seems as if the team is prepared to make Cam Newton the cornerstone piece of the team which makes getting a contract worked out important. It will not be an easy negotiation as players like Newton are taking contracts that are heavy on incentives and contract escalators, but as a former number 1 pick I am sure that Newton views himself in the older style mold of Matt Stafford or Matt Ryan where a team should fork over both big money and guarantees. His contract could become even more complex if the Colts or Seahawks sign their quarterbacks to an extension. Newton’s cap number of $14.67M could be reduced with an extension. The best compromise for all sides might be a 3 or 4 year extension rather than the standard 5 or 6 year one that is signed by most quarterbacks…Thomas Davis’ contract voids at the end of the season, which will accelerate $3M onto the team’s 2016 salary cap. Davis has been extremely good for the defense and has remained healthy.  They should be able to simply convert most of his $7.5M cash salary into the new guarantee on a three year extension. This is not a high priced position so a deal should not be difficult and it would greatly reduce his cap charge this year…Greg Olsen’s contract will also void at the end of this season and he is likely a must keep player. Olsen should have many productive years left though I can also understand the argument in waiting in his case since he is coming off a season where his importance the offense was very large. He has a $7.8M cap charge that they can probably knock a million or two off of in an extension….I am certain that there will be some consideration given to again reworking Johnson’s contract but with just one year remaining and $4 million in dead money already potentially sitting in 2016, this should only be a last resort restructure. Johnson’s contract is one of the worst in the NFL in terms of cap management. The team should also steer clear of touching Ryan Kalil’s contract if they can avoid it.

Players to Consider Releasing

There should be little surprise in the announcement that the Panthers will release running back DeAngelo Williams. This was the first of the really bad contracts that the Panthers are able to maneuver their way out of and he was, at this point of his career, rarely used and rarely healthy. They gain little in cap room if released outright so I would expect them to strongly consider the June 1 designation which will create the cap room they need in the summer to sign their rookie class…Outside of Williams there is not much they can really do for cap relief. Carolina can create around $2.4M in cap room with the release of Mike Tolbert, but I believe they will want him back at that price….I tend to think the Panthers expected a little more out of wide receiver Jerricho Cothery, but they are limited at the position and would need to use the June 1 cut to save anything significant with him. A name maybe to consider deep in the summer as a very late cut if younger guys work out.

Offseason Plan

Carolina has been hampered in free agency for the last two seasons because of the contracts on their roster and that trend will likely continue for at least one more season before they are able to fully dig their way out. Luckily for Carolina they were able to get by due to a surprising season in 2013 and then a terrible division in 2014. That has lessened the blows of being in a position where you can not only barely add to the team but are also being forced to hurt yourself more in the future because of the need to restructure already massive contracts.

This season should be about filling the voids with a long term vision around Newton rather than trying for a few short term hits. The team was not good last season despite advancing to the second round of the playoffs and there are many areas that need to be addressed. This is not really a short term project.

The Panthers only have 19 players under contract in 2016, the fewest in the NFL. You can probably jettison Johnson and Johnathan Stewart off that team as well as kicker Graham Gano. They will pick some players back up- Luke Kuechly will have his option exercised, Newton, Davis, and Olsen should all be extended- but still we are talking about a very limited roster beyond this season compared to a majority of the NFL.

They should have huge amounts of cap space in 2016 as a quick run through of some projected cuts and placeholder cap charges should leave them with over $60 million in cap room if no big free agents are brought in and the cap continues to rise at a $10M a year pace. That is the season where they should be considering spending, not so much this one.

I would expect the offseason free agent period to mainly be about bargain bin hunting and placing some veterans on the roster to add some experience and perspective to what should be a younger roster. At the most I would expect one mid tier free agent signing, likely on the offensive line where the cost/benefit ratios are reasonable compared to positions like receiver. If they want to be more active in free agency then they need to quickly dig in on some of those restructures or they need to structure contracts with low cap hits this year and larger ones in 2016, a strategy that, in part, got them in the trouble they have been in the last few years.

Carolina is one of those teams where if they can move down a few slots in the first round and get more picks in the middle round they might benefit. Even if it’s a high second rounder it could be worth it depending on their opinions on the strengths and weaknesses of the draft. They will likely go with the BAP philosophy but with a varied number of needs that likely fills an immediate need or two as well.

The team needs to find a left tackle and wide receiver, both of which are better found in the draft, specifically tackle where few good ones become available in free agency. Defensively they need another pass rusher to eventually replace Johnson and be paired with Kony Ealy who is their other young raw talent. If things work out they should have their defensive line set for years. I would expect the team to also focus on finding another cornerback and safety.

The more the team can evaluate younger players this year the better off they will be when they decide how to allocate their assets to free agency in 2016. If they do that they probably have the best chance of any of the four teams in the division of solidifying their place as a contender for the next 3 or 4 years.

Panthers Links

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Best & Worst Contracts 2014: Carolina Panthers

We start the week off with the Carolina Panthers…

Best Contract: Nate Chandler

Nate ChandlerThere have been a few teams where I’ll mention having a hard time finding a good contract or a really bad contract, but this is the first team where I almost feel guilty even naming a good contract. The Panthers veteran contracts are almost all a mess. The contracts contain excessively high signing bonuses, huge annual values,  voidable contract years, over the top guarantees, and all kinds of other things that make for player friendly deals. Many of the players have talent (Charles Johnson, Greg Hardy, Greg Olsen, etc…) but if ever there was a team in need of a Raiders style contract purge it’s this one.

With that in mind I selected Nate Chandler because of the upside of the contract. Chandler was switched from the defensive to offensive line last season with starts at both guard and right tackle. Knowing that retirement was an issue with incumbent left tackle Jordan Gross the Panthers felt as if Chandler could possibly be the starting left tackle in 2014. Once he would achieve that status his potential salary could skyrocket. Even if he projected to a starting guard or right tackle you would be looking a $4 million a year for a decent player.

So the Panthers made the move to extend early, trading in a few dollars of guaranteed salary for a very low cost starter on the offensive line.  Chandler was an undrafted free agent in 2012 and thus he would have been a restricted free agent in 2015. Had he played the contract out he would have earned $570,000 in 2014 and, assuming he was a starting lineman, in the ballpark of $2 million a season in 2015 under the second round tender.

The Panthers contract with Chandler pays him $2.12 million over the next two seasons, which is a discount on the scenario above. His guarantee of $1.87 million is essentially the equivalent of having him play out next year under the lower cost right of first refusal tender. For that added guarantee and slight job security the Panthers lock Chandler up for $3 million total over the 2016 ad 2017 seasons, a bargain basement price if he is a starter on the lie. IF he plays well he would have been a franchise candidate in 2015. Now he will play for $1.5 million.

While it’s a risk since there is almost no track record to go on, the Panthers only gave a small signing bonus to mitigate that risk. He could be cut in 2015 with $1.1 million in dead money charges and just $400,000 if released in 2016.  As long as he is healthy and in a backup role the deal is more than fair. If he hits big it’s a major benefit for a team with a really bad salary cap situation.

Worst Contract: Jonathan Stewart

jonathan stewartThe decision to offer a monster contract extension to running back Jonathan Stewart in 2012 was one of the strangest decisions made in the NFL.  The timing of the contract was bizarre. The year prior the Panthers had signed running back DeAngelo Williams to a large contract extension and just a few months earlier they signed Mike Tolbet to a free agent contract. All told the team was already committed over $11 million a season to the position when they offered Stewart a $7.3 million a year contract.

The logic behind the price tag is one I can’t even figure out. Stewart, at best, was a part time running back. He started 13 games in four years, was not much of a receiver, and had just one 1,000 yard season to his name. When Williams was injured in 2010 his numbers dropped to just 770 yards and his effectiveness was no better than Mike Goodson. In 2011, with a less effective Williams back, Stewart logged just 761 yards. But somehow the Panthers were convinced and signed one of the worst contracts in the NFL.

Stewart’s contract was an absolute minefield for the organization. Stewart received a $9 million signing bonus  and $11.5 million in full guarantees upon signing, but the realistic guarantee in the contract was upwards of $20 million. If Stewart was on the roster after the 2012 Super Bowl, meaning just six months after signing his contract, an additional $9 million in salary would be guaranteed in 2014 and another $2.5 million would become guaranteed in 2015. There was also no offset language in the contract. So the Panthers were completely tied down.

In 2014 Stewart was to receive the $9 million additional guarantee in the form of an option bonus.  The team tinkered with the contract in 2013 to help relieve some cap charges later in the contract and then reworked it again in 2014 to create cap space in 2014, in part by adding a voidable contract year. It’s left the Panthers with $13.6 million in dead money in 2015 if they chose to release Stewart next year and $7.3 million in dead money if they released him in 2016. In each remaining year of his contract his salary cap charge will never be less than $8.25 million.

Stewart was one the least productive back of his time period to receive a contract like this one. It’s gotten worse now because Stewart is never healthy, playing just 15 games in the last two seasons. In the last two years Stewart has earned around $13 million and produced around 500 rushing yards. He will earn $8.285 million this season in likely another season as a part time back splitting carries with others on the team. There is nothing the Panthers can do with him. They are stuck with him for the foreseeable future, essentially locked into $8+ million a season in sunk salary cap costs that are one level above pure dead money. This is one of the worst contract’s in the NFL and should continue to be that until at least 2015.

2013’s Best and Worst Panthers Contracts:

2013 Best Contract: Dwan Edwards (Remains on team)

2013 Worst Contract: Jonathan Stewart (See above)

Click Here to Check out OTC’s other Best and Worst Contracts from around the NFL!

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The Replacement Cost of Panthers WR Steve Smith

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The Carolina Panthers made the signing of WR Jerricho Cotchery official today and I got a copy of what I believe to be accurate contract terms and was a bit surprised at the numbers. As we all know the Panthers released lifelong Panther Steve Smith earlier this offseason and allowed Brandon LaFell to sign with the New England Patriots. The Panthers receiving corps was more or less non-existent, with the team devoting just about $3 million in salary cap charges before the Cotchery signing.  While I don’t think anyone will argue that Cotchery was brought in to be a number one option for the team (the consensus on Twitter was maybe he is a LaFell replacement)I wanted to look at this from a financial standpoint and compare him with Smith and see if there was really any financial justification to releasing him.

I had speculated when the Panthers were rumored to be trading/cutting smith that this situation was about money. Smith was going to be 35 and at that age the future salaries that he was to be paid were not sustainable. I thought a fair compromise was to pay him in the ballpark of $9 million over two years and $12 over three, which is similar to the $13.5 million he ended up with between the Ravens’ and Panthers’ salary commitments. Maybe the Panthers just felt there was no price that they could really agree on but you always need to factor in a replacement cost and this is what just seems so strange with the whole decision making process.

Cotchery is a nice player who had a very solid run with the New York Jets from 2006 through 2009. Cotchery struggled with injuries in 2010 and was (quietly) upset with becoming the forgotten man of sorts with the Jets. In 2011 when he was going to be pushed to fourth on the depth chart he basically asked for a trade or release which the Jets granted him.  He signed with the Steelers on a contract that was essentially for the veterans’ minimum with a chance to compete for the team. Cotchery did not do much but the team kept him on a two year deal worth a maximum value of $3 million. In 2013 he ended up as the number 3 target and had a renaissance of sorts putting up 602 yards and a stunning 10 touchdowns.  It was his first time since 2009 that he put up more than 450 yards. He’ll be 32 years old in 2014.

Smith produced 745 yards in 2013, a steep decline from his 1,000 plus yard seasons in 2011 and 2012. He’ll be 35 in 2014 and I think it is a legitimate question that he could be finished as a top player. But would you rather take your chances on a 35 year old Smith that has caught 216 passes for 3,313 yards over the last three years or the 32 year old Cotchery that has caught 79 passes for 1,044 yards over the same time frame?  I think that answer should be clear. While the response from the defenders of the Panthers’ front office is that there is a financial component that needs to be considered here I certainly agree, but after looking at Cotchery’s contract numbers there really is not one.

When a team decides on a fate of a player there always should be a replacement cost analysis involved. While you are gaining cash and cap relief from moving on from a player you do need to replace the player and there can be a big cost component to that. Smith already had $3 million of his contract guaranteed with no offsets, a parting gift to the organization by their former General Manager that pretty much destroyed their salary cap structure.  To keep Smith a Panther in 2014 it would cost the team $4 million more, assuming he did not renegotiate his contract. I can see that cost being maybe too high except Cotchery will cost the team $3.5 million.

Let’s first look at the 2014 scenarios, with Smith designated a June 1 cut

Scenario

2014 Cash

2014 Cap

Keep Smith

$7,000,000

$7,000,000

Cut Smith

$6,500,000

$6,700,000

Difference

$500,000

$300,000

So in 2014 the Panthers will generate a grand total of $500,000 in cash savings and $300,000 in cap space to bring in Cotchery over keeping Smith. Let’s extend it out to 2015 with the assumption that Smith is cut and Cotchery is kept (his cap is similar if he stays or goes):

Scenario

2015 Cash

2015 Cap

Keep Smith

$0

$6,000,000

Cut Smith

$1,500,000

$5,950,000

Difference

-$1,500,000

$50,000

Again it’s essentially no savings. The only savings in this case is realized if Cotchery plays out two years and you are certain that you would cut Smith in 2014 and need to replace him with a player who would cost more than Cotchery.

What if you offered Smith the same deal he signs with the Ravens such that you could keep him for two seasons like they expect to keep Cotchery?

Scenario

2014 Cash

2014 Cap

Rework Smith

$7,500,000

$7,166,666

Sign Cotchery

$6,500,000

$6,700,000

Difference

$1,000,000

$466,666

Scenario

2015 Cash

2015 Cap

Rework Smith

$3,000,000

$6,166,666

Sign Cotchery

$1,500,000

$5,950,000

Difference

$1,500,000

$216,666

I guess the bottom line is that over a two year period the Panthers expect to save $2.5 million in real dollars by releasing Smith and signing Cotchery as a replacement. The team only saves around $640,000 in cap over the same timeframe. If Cotchery would prove to be a one season rental and the alternative option was to keep Smith for just one year the teams saves just $500,000 in cash and cap.

In this case I just can’t see the cost savings justifying the decision that the Panthers made here.  The upside with Smith  is so much greater than Cotchery that it just doesn’t seem to make much sense to make the move. For the move to work out Cotchery is going to have to put together back to back decent seasons for the first time since 2008-2009 while Smith completely flames out in Baltimore.  The Panthers front office has to be pretty convinced of it to make the moves they did this offseason.

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Steve Smith’s Contract Situation with the Carolina Panthers

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One of the questions that seem to be popping up every now and then is what exactly are the Panthers plans for wide receiver Steve Smith. The team has been somewhat non-committal to him when asked about his future as a Panther. So let’s take a look at Smith’s situation.

The central theme at play here is how much money is an older player really worth.  Smith will be 35 in 2014, making him one of the oldest receivers in the NFL. The other plus 35 players who may get a contract in 2014 are Reggie Wayne, Santana Moss, and Plaxico Burress. Smith still has three years remaining on his contract and in each season the dead money is of growing importance since the need to cut or retire increases with each passing season.

Since 2000 there have been just 25 receivers who have recorded at least 20 receptions in a season at the age of 35 or older. At 36 the number decreases to 17. Only 7 receivers have done it at 37 or older and at that point the only viable receivers were Jerry Rice and Terrell Owens with most of the others at less than 50 receptions and 500 yards. So the Panthers need to be cognizant of Smith’s lifecycle as a player and by the end of the year he certainly looked to be trending downward.

Smith has three big money years remaining on his contract that he signed in 2012. The extension was more or less designed to be a two year deal that provided immediate salary cap relief that provided the Panthers with a five month renegotiating window in 2014. In 2012 Smith was in the final year of his contract and set to count for $10,713,111 against the salary cap. Set to earn $7.75 million, the Panthers increased his salary to $11 million and fully guaranteed him an additional $3.75 million in 2013 and $3 million in 2014. Carolina got his cap number down to a manageable $5,996,989 in 2012 and at worst was going to pay him $17.75 million for two years of work in 12 and 13. This is not much different than what the Ravens recently did with LB Terrell Suggs, except the Ravens did the smart thing and tackled Suggs’ age head on in his extension while the Panthers simply made it a headache to be worried about two years later.

Smith will earn $7 million in 2014, $7 million in 2015, and $9 million in 2016 under his current contract structure. Those numbers are unsustainable at his age. While NFL contracts are not guaranteed the Panthers poor cap management and heavy reliance on prorated bonuses has placed large amounts of dead money on the books for most of their players, Smith included. A portion of Smith’s $7 million salary in 2014 is one of those prorated bonuses. If the Panthers leave the contract as is that will lock them into a charge of at least $6 million in 2015 even if he retires or is released. Here are the actual salaries earned by some of the more recent “name players” from the ages of 35 onward with Smith’s current contract structure included for reference.

Player

Age

Salary

Steve Smith

37

$9,000,000

Steve Smith

35

$7,000,000

Steve Smith

36

$7,000,000

Terrell Owens

35

$6,500,000

Reggie Wayne

35

$6,000,000

Donald Driver

35

$6,000,000

Donald Driver

36

$5,000,000

Reggie Wayne

36

$4,000,000

Hines Ward

35

$4,000,000

Donald Driver

37

$3,500,000

Derrick Mason

36

$3,500,000

Derrick Mason

35

$3,000,000

Randy Moss

35

$2,500,000

Terrell Owens

36

$2,000,000

Muhsin Muhammad

36

$1,500,000

Muhsin Muhammad

35

$1,500,000

Derrick Mason

37

$1,310,000

In looking at these numbers I think both sides can make a case that the $7 million figure should or should not stand. From the Panthers perspective he would be the highest earning player at that age, but from his perspective it would not be by much (Wayne, Owens and Driver were all close) and the Panthers should reward him for a long and very good career, which justifies that number. What he can not justify are the $7 and $9 million charges coming in 2015 and 2016.

Carolina has three big contracts that will be coming due in the next few years and the team needs to put aside salary cap space for those players. DE Greg Hardy is a free agent this season and should command well over $12 million a year. The following season QB Cam Newton will either be playing on a high cost option, that pays around $14 million, or on a long term contract that pays $16-$18 million a year. Finally LB Luke Kuechly will be extension eligible in 2015. This is going to not only put a drain on the Panthers already difficult cap situation but is also going to require ownership to pay millions of dollars to star players. It becomes more difficult to make large payments and allocate large cap dollars to former superstar players with these big deals on the horizon.

Smith has $3 million that is fully protected this year in the event he is released, but the Panthers have time to decide on his fate which works to their advantage. Smith has an option bonus due of $3 million but the team has until June 30 to make a decision on this option. Normally the option would need to be exercised in the first few days of the League Year to facilitate a quick release for the player. By the time they would decide in this case, though, the bigger money in free agency will have dried up.

If the team fails to pick up the option and release Smith by July 1 they will owe him a $3 million non-exercise fee. If they release him they will need to pay him $3 million in fully guaranteed base salary. So $3 million of this money is indeed protected for Smith. In addition I believe that Smith’s guarantee is of the no-offset variety meaning he can double dip if released. So at a minimum Smith will earn $4 million in the NFL this season and most likely a few dollars more.

The Panthers would gain little by releasing Smith. His cap charge for the year would be $6 million, assuming his is a post June 1, and he is currently only counting for $7 million.  The team would then be responsible for $3 million in cap charges in 2015 ($4 million in acceleration and a $1 million credit for not picking up the option). His roster spot would also need to be replaced by someone making at least the minimum of $420,000. What it boils down to is that releasing Smith in 2014 is going to cost the Panthers $9.84 million in cap space and $3.84 million in cash plus a somewhat negative PR situation over the next two seasons.

The best case for both sides is to find a way to make Smith’s contract more reasonable for his age and expected performance level. According to a source with knowledge of Smith’s contract his true cash salary in 2014 would be $5.5 million due to half of his option being deferred until 2015. That should be the first starting point. Eliminate the option and pay him $5.5 million in 2015, with $2 million coming as a roster bonus in June (thus getting him more immediate cash than he would get in the option) and reducing his P5 to fully guaranteed $3.5 million. $5.5 million is likely more than he would make if the situation dragged out and he was released on July 1.

The trickier part of the negotiation is what is a fair value beyond this season. While most players seem to believe that there are greener pastures in free agency most often there are not. Players with a long history in one city often get a great deal of leeway when it comes to performance and expectations. Smith’s struggles in Carolina would be looked at less critically than in another city. He would retain a big role simply because of his name value in Carolina and both fans and media (and some likely within the organization) will rationalize a year where he catches 46 passes for 554 yards like he did in 2010.

The same can’t be said in another city. If Smith struggles he’ll likely get benched. Fans and media will be all over him. Even if he does moderately well like the 2010 stat line he’ll probably be cut after the season. After all who wants a 36 year old receiver with mid line numbers when you can find a 28 year old with some upside to do the same?  Just look at the treatment Ed Reed received in Houston this year if you want a recent example of aging players trying to fit in with a new franchise where they have no history.

Even as we look at that list above the players who earned the most money all re-signed with the original teams. Wayne, Driver, and Ward finished out (or will finish out) with the Colts, Packers, and Steelers. The Bills and Bengals had no use for Owens after a one year audition. The 49ers showed no interest in doing anything with Moss. The Jets traded away Mason the minute they got him. Muhammad came back to Carolina to earn what he earned.

The Panthers front office likely assumes that if they release Smith, Smith will collect $3 million from Carolina, another $2 million from another team, and then that might be it for his career. His next step is taking a one day contract to retire a Panther. The following is a list of some players who finished up their careers with a different squad than the team they were associated most with post-35 who I felt were noteworthy players.

PlayerAgesTeams

Games Started

Receptions

Yards

Jerry Rice

39-42

Raiders/Seahawks

30

268

3,648

Keenan McCardell

34-37

Chargers/Redskins

34

159

2,003

Terrell Owens

36-37

Bills/Bengals

27

127

1,812

Randy Moss

35

49ers

2

28

434

Isaac Bruce

36/37

49ers

7

21

264

Joe Horn

35

Falcons

12

27

243

Terance Mathis

35

Steelers

0

23

218

Tim Brown

38

Buccaneers

4

20

200

Derrick Mason

37

Jets/Texans

2

19

170

Andre Reed

36

Redskins

0

10

103

Joey Galloway

38

Patriots

2

7

67

Cris Carter

37

Dolphins

1

8

66

Bobby Engram

36

Chiefs

0

5

61

Amani Toomer

35

Chiefs

0

0

0

Of all these players only Rice, McCardell and Owens were useful. Rice’s longevity was legendary as was his career and you can’t really compare him to any player. McCardell was traded to San Diego at the age of 34 but I wanted to include him here since he was a well known player in Jacksonville and Tampa Bay. He would last three seasons in San Diego before a tryout in Houston and mid-season run in with the Redskins. Owens, while not a top level player, was still productive and it was his locker room reputation and off the field endeavors that likely saw him more or less blacklisted from the NFL.

For most players it was one and done and a rather non-descript ending to some very productive careers in the NFL. This is probably the reality for Smith if he was to leave the comfort of Carolina. The job for the Panthers is to convince Smith that this is reality if he were to leave. If he was released this season he would likely get one chance with another team and that is the end. At the most he might eek out two seasons.

I’d probably propose something like a $3.5 million salary in 2015 at the age of 36 and $3.0 million salary in 2016 at the age of 37. That gives him a strong chance to earn $9 million by 2015, and that is likely going to be much more than he would earn as a free agent. He also wont have to chance finishing his career in a place he is not appreciated nor will he have to deal with the headache of moving for what may be just one season. His cap charges would fall from $10 million and $12 million under his current deal to $5.5 million and $5.0 million.  Dead money in 2015 would fall from $6 million to $4 million and in 2016 from $3 million to $2 million.

The one thing that I would not do if I was Carolina is use the void year provision that they are slowly falling in love with for cap relief. The purpose of doing anything with the Smith deal is to maintain your cap flexibility in the future. To prorate money out five years for a few dollars in cap room now is counter-productive.

But I do think it is good for both sides to continue the relationship. Smith can still play and it is not as if the Panthers are exploding with offensive talent that they can just ship him out and plug someone into the spot, even if they draft his replacement and attempt to use that as leverage. I doubt this is a situation settled anytime soon, but I think most fans of the game would like to see Smith finish his career in Carolina.

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