The Carolina Panthers locked up their star defensive tackle Kawann Short to a five year, $80.5 million contract today. According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Short will receive $35 million fully guaranteed at signing and $45 million in total guarantees, which are certainly pretty big numbers that place him among the highest compensated interior defensive linemen in the league. Short had been designated a franchise player and was set to earn $13.387 million for the season.
Based on the reported numbers Short’s contract looks to rank 5th in annual, 5th in fully guaranteed salary, and 7th in injury guarantees. That puts his contract among an elite group of players:
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This has really become an interesting subset of players from a contractual standpoint as no team has thus far been showing massive improvements by spending high at this position, but values have shot up to where these players are on par with or slightly exceeding the edge rushers who generally are putting up much higher impact numbers.
With Short’s contract finalized there are now 14 defensive players signed to contracts earning at least $15 million a season. Of those 14 players, 7 are interior defenders, 5 are edge defenders, and 2 are cornerbacks. Only five of those players made the playoffs last season, two of whom were on the same team. Of those five Watt and Justin Houston both missed considerable time and were not catalysts for a playoff run.
There are only two non-quarterbacks on offense that make $15 million or more a year- wide receivers AJ Green and Antonio Brown. 19 quarterbacks make $15M plus so clearly the defensive line is the closest thing to being looked at as nearly as essential as the QB position. I’m not sure who the player will be that crosses the $20 million per year threshold on defense but it does seem clear that someone on the line will likely get there in the near future.
Short is the third franchise player to sign a long term contract long before the mid July deadline. The others who signed were Chandler Jones of the Cardinals ($16.5 million per year) and Jason Pierre-Paul of the Giants($15.5 million per year). The remaining franchise players without a long term contract are Kirk Cousins (Redskins), Trumaine Johnson (Rams), Melvin Ingram (Chargers), and Le’Veon Bell (Steelers).