According to ESPN’s Pat Yasinskas, the Carolina Panthers have $128.2 million committed toward the 2012 salary cap. Considering the 2012 cap-limit is $120.6 million, it would appear that the Panthers have some decisions to make.
The Panthers will have a little help, though, as $2.8 million will be added to their 2012 cap-limit. (This number represents the amount of their unused cap-space during the 2011 league year.) With that addition, the Carolina Panthers 2012 cap-limit will be roughly $123.4 million.
The long and short of it is this: the Carolina Panthers are $4.8 million over their cap-limit, and must remedy the situation in the next 24 hours.
I’d like to examine some of the possible cuts, re-signs or restructures and open a general dialogue about the situation before we are inevitably hit over the head with it.
The most obvious place to start would be with Thomas Davis. His 2012 cap number is a whopping $11,900,000. Eight and a quarter million of that comes in the form of an elusive ‘miscellaneous bonus.’ Frankly, the Panthers will restructure Davis’ contract. When you consider the multiple knee injuries, and the fact that Davis is trying to do something no one has ever done (playing after three ACL tears), the Panthers have no choice but to restructure Davis’ number to protect themselves. This is not scientific (and I admittedly know nothing about the workings of NFL contracts), but I can’t imagine the Panthers keeping Davis at more than a four or five million dollar cap number.
2012 cap savings: $6.9 million. Cap space after move: $2.1 million.
Okay, they’re under the cap. That’s a start, but the Panthers will need more room for free agents, draft picks, and for injury replacement players. The next player to get called into the office might be Travelle Wharton. Wharton has a 2012 cap number of $7.7 million. He has been a solid player for the Panthers for half a decade, but at that cap figure he should be a perennial pro-bowler, particularly at the guard position. Travelle will likely re-sign, since he has only two years left on his contract. Ideally, the Panthers would get his number down to $4 million (or less) for 2012. This would represent a savings of $3.7 million. The new contract would be more back-loaded and incentive laden.
2012 cap savings: $3.7 million. Cap space after move: $5.8 million.
Steve Smith needs a new contract. As Teddy KGB said, “Pay that man his money.” This is not so much about lowering Smitty’s 2012 number of $8.1 million as it is keeping him in a Panthers uniform for the next 4+ years. A new four-year deal would lower his 2012 cap number by roughly a million dollars.
2012 cap savings: $1.1 million. Cap space after move: $6.9 million.
Next up is Jordan Gross. 2012 and 2013 are the meat and potatoes of his contract, with his cap number in those years being $9.3 million and $9.5 million, respectively. It would be a bit of a dupe to try to prohibit him from that money, but that kind of cap figure should be reserved for the top three tackles in the game. If Gross would be willing to push some of the money back into his final year (2014 is the last year, at $7.5 million), then maybe the Panthers can get another couple million in reprieve for the 2012 season.
2012 cap savings: $1.5 million. Cap space after move: $8.4 million.
The final move could be cutting Jimmy Clausen. Cutting him would save the Panthers a million against the cap. If he is not going to dress on gamedays, then there is zero sense in paying him that much money. If the team decides not to re-sign Derek Anderson, then Jimmy could very well be the backup quarterback, but something tells me the Panthers will want to get slightly younger, cheaper and more athletic at that spot.
2012 cap savings: $1 million. Cap space after move: $9.4 million.
There you have it: Only five moves create almost $10 million in cap space. There aren’t really any other contracts that seem overly-bloated or easily fixable, but I’m sure this astute fanbase will find them–if they do exist. It’s likely that we will see some backups cut, too, but it’s so hard to figure out who that could be when you are dealing with smaller salaries…We also don’t have all of the injury info the Panthers are privy to.
Feel free to use the comments section to talk about these five moves, to suggest some other moves, or to just call me a dumb dumb head. You can use this site, operated by Spotrac, to look at everyone’s contract.