Panthers Restructure Three Contracts to Gain Cap Space


The Carolina Panthers began the process of attempting to navigate a poor salary cap situation by restructuring the contracts of RB Jonathan Stewart, C Ryan Kalil, and LB Thomas Davis. The Panthers are following a similar model with their players at this stage using the voidable contract year for the sake of short term cap compliance. It’s a similar method used (or maybe abused is the better word) by the Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins and, in the past, the Oakland Raiders. The Panthers will need to bank on large salary cap increases in the future to offset the additional dead money or lack of contract leverage they will have with these players.

Stewart was restructured for the second time in two years. He converted $715,000 of base salary to go along with a $6.875 million bonus that was already in his contract. To reduce his cap charge they added a voidable season in 2018 to allow the bonus to prorate over five rather than four years. The team saved just over $900,000 in the restructure.

Restructuring Kalil is also an annual endeavor for the Panthers as he takes a big prorated bonus in lieu of salary for the second time in two years. Kalil already had one voidable season in his contract and now they added a second one to allow for longer proration of salaries. It saves the Panthers just over $3.1 million in 2014, but increases his cap in 2015 to nearly $11.8 million. With over $12 million in dead money in the contract next year the Panthers have basically assured Kalil of a lucrative contract extension in 2015. The Center market had pulled back considerably since the Panthers signed Kalil to the top contract at the position but he will likely set the market again because of the leverage he holds with Carolina.

Davis’ restructure might be the most controversial of the three. Davis has battled injuries in the past and the Panthers added three voidable years to his contract. The team had the right to pay him a $2.5 million bonus to extend his contract this year, which would have been prorated over two seasons, but instead they converted salary into a bonus on top of the option and prorated it over five seasons. He receives a $5 million bonus and that reduced his cap charge by $2.25 million. However his 2015 cap now jumps to just over $10 million with his dead money increasing to $5.57 million.

The Panthers find themselves in a difficult spot because the contracts that were signed by the prior General Manager were very player friendly, but the team also exceeded expectations in 2013, making it more difficult to consider eating a year for cap purposes in 2014.

Carolina arguably has the worst salary cap outlook of any team in the NFL moving forward. The team has around $102 million committed to the 2015 salary cap with just 29 players under contract. Those players do not include QB Cam Newton or DE Greg Hardy, two mega ticket items. Newton will either be playing on the transition tag number or on a contract that pays in the $16-$18 million a year vicinity. Hardy will be one of the highest paid defensive ends in the NFL. So this restructuring of deals is a juggling act the team will likely have to continue to do next season if they keep both players.

If the cap is $130 million this year the Panthers should have $18 million or so in cap to work with.  That is enough to franchise tag Hardy around $13 million and try to work out a contract extension. I have seen the reports about Carolina being nearly $29 million under the salary cap but at this time none of my estimates have the number that high. I’ll see if I can find out if any other changes occurred to the Panthers cap in the last few days to push it that high.




  • AeroDave

    I just don’t see how Carolina will be able to keep Greg Hardy. I think they really screwed themselves by giving out those big contracts to DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. $8M of dead money to Jon Beason isn’t helping either. With big money already committed to another DE in Charles Johnson, I think they have to let Hardy walk and focus on keeping Cam Newton and Luke Kuechly. They’ll probably also need to do something with Greg Olson and Steve Smith, either this year or next.

  • NW86

    Yes, this team seems to be turning into the Dallas Cowboys. It’s inexplicable how a team with a Franchise QB still playing under a cheap rookie contract got themselves into this situation. You would think, with their owner (or was it the GM?) basically admitting that they had a tough cap situation, they would have made some tougher decisions and let someone go instead of going “all in” even more and ensuring that their situation will continue to be tight for the forseeable future.

    • mike jones

      The old regime was responsible for that with asinine contracts to RBs. And they had essentially no one who could create significant cap space by being cut.
      Also, they should have beaten the 49ers in the playoffs (more yards – just missed on two short TD tries) and Seattle in week 1 (same thing essentially). So they are right there with the big boys, and you propose to blow it up I suppose. One in the hand is worth 2 in the bush.

      • Rijker

        “The old regime was responsible for that with asinine contracts to RBs.”

        I wouldn’t even go as far as restricting that to RBs. Kalil and Johnson are pretty good players but they’re ridiculously overpaid.

        • Yeah the decisions they made extended far past the RB position, but the RB decisions are the only ones I can say with 100% certainty that no other team in the NFL would have done. If Johnson was a FA Im sure a team may have gone up that high or done a deal in a similar structure. No team in the NFL would have had that amount of money tied up in a few runners, especially coming off injuries.

      • NW86

        Where did I say I would “blow it up”? And I realize these problems came from the old regime, I just wouldn’t exacerbate the asinine contracts from the old regime by creating more asinine contracts and pushing the problems into future years. They were already under the cap, so the only reason they must have needed to create more cap space is because they’re getting ready spend more money in free agency.
        I’m just saying they shouldn’t have done that right now. They might have had to let 1 or 2 players go if they ended up in a bidding war, but this way they’re ensuring themselves of major problems in 2015-2017.

  • Dwight

    Hey Jason, Can you explain why there’s dead money for Gross’ contract? Having a discussion with someone who doesn’t believe that’s so and don’t know why. I think it’s because they had a voidable year in the contract to prorate the bonus and then voiding the contract accelerated the bonus, but don’t really know.

    • You are correct. The void years were in place to prorate money. When the deal voids (or he retires) the money accelerates just like he would have been cut.

      • Dwight

        Thanks Jason.
        Couple more questions:

        Would they have been able to take that cap hit in 13 if they’d had room?

        Were you able to figure out why the four letter network is saying 29 mil and you’ve got 18 mil?

        • Did ESPN say that? I just saw some of the local Carolina reporters saying it? My guess is whomever it came from they had gotten a cap sheet from someone and did not realize the restructures were already in there. It probably read somewhere between $18 and $21 million (depending on the anticipated cap limits of $130 or $132 or $133) and then they added the savings to that. In essence they double counted the savings.

          If Carolina had the room they likely would have structured Gross’ deal differently and in a similar manner to what the Redskins and 49ers have done in the past. In these cases you put a player controlled void rather than an auto date void clause in the deal and the money accelerates to the current year rather than piling up after the void. With the carryover it kind of balances out to zero but I think its always a better internal check on yourself as a GM to use the cap room now rather than putting it off to the following season, but thats just a personal opinion. If you have self- restraint either way works out to the same number.

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