The Panthers have 25 pending free agents. Projecting who will stay and who will go

·7 min read

The Carolina Panthers will have some interesting decisions to make this offseason when it comes to free agency.

The 2022 salary cap will increase from the 2021 season, which is means more money for both teams and players.

The Panthers have 25 pending free agents. The biggest ones include linebacker Haason Reddick, cornerback Donte Jackson, quarterback Cam Newton and cornerback Stephon Gilmore.

Who will they re-sign? Who is out of the door? That’s still to be determined.

But here’s a look at what we think will happen with each free agent based on how they’ve played through 12 games:

Each free agent is accompanied by a designation from 1 to 5 of how likely they are to be re-signed with the Panthers. A 5 next to their name means there is no doubt that player will be back in Carolina and a 1 designates there’s little chance that they will return. The players under contract indicate who are signed through the new league year in March.

Panthers outside linebacker Haason Reddick, front center, pushes away Vikings defender as he runs with the ball after intercepted during the game at Bank of America Stadium on Sunday, October 17, 2021 in Charlotte, NC.
Panthers outside linebacker Haason Reddick, front center, pushes away Vikings defender as he runs with the ball after intercepted during the game at Bank of America Stadium on Sunday, October 17, 2021 in Charlotte, NC.

1. LB Haason Reddick — 3

Reddick should be the Panthers’ No. 1 priority to sign in free agency this offseason. He has had another great season and leads the Panthers with 10.5 sacks, which is tied for sixth best in the NFL.

Reddick has easily been the Panthers’ MVP this season.

Will he want to return? Reddick’s familiarity with defensive coordinator Phil Snow and coach Matt Rhule, who was his coach at Temple, certainly helps.

But he’ll also likely command a lot of money and nearly any team in the NFL, except maybe the Cardinals, will be willing to pay him.

The Panthers should show him the money. Reddick is in his prime, and together, he and Brian Burns can be a major force on the defense for years to come.

Carolina Panthers Donte Jackson celebrates a win against the Arizona Cardinals at the State Farm Stadium in Glendale AZ, on Sunday, November 14, 2021. The Panthers defeated the Cardinals 34-10.
Carolina Panthers Donte Jackson celebrates a win against the Arizona Cardinals at the State Farm Stadium in Glendale AZ, on Sunday, November 14, 2021. The Panthers defeated the Cardinals 34-10.

2. CB Donte Jackson — 2

Jackson’s number was higher earlier in the season. He was playing some of the best football of his career and was voted a team captain.

But he has struggled in the past two weeks against Washington and Miami. And on Tuesday he was put on the team’s injured reserve list, ending his season.

The Panthers have options at cornerback.

Rookie Jaycee Horn may step into the No. 1 role next year, barring any setbacks with his foot injury. The Panthers traded for C.J. Henderson because they think he has potential. And rookie Keith Taylor Jr. had some good moments. Cornerback is one of the Panthers’ deepest positions.

Jackson will get paid good money, and he deserves it. It just might not be for the Panthers.

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton celebrates his rushing touchdown against the Miami Dolphins during first quarter action at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla. on Sunday, November 28, 2021.
Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton celebrates his rushing touchdown against the Miami Dolphins during first quarter action at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla. on Sunday, November 28, 2021.

3. QB Cam Newton — 2

The Panthers signed Newton hoping he could keep their playoff hopes alive. He played well in his first two games with the team, but he was horrendous in the third game. He finished 5-of-21 for 92 yards and two interceptions against the Dolphins.

For the season, Newton is 29 of 52 for 289 yards, three passing touchdowns and two interceptions. He also has three rushing touchdowns.

Newton would have to play much better over the final five games for the Panthers to consider him long term. He’ll likely want more money, and the Panthers will already be paying Sam Darnold $18.8 million to likely be a backup next season.

This could change depending on how the final five games shake out.

Carolina Panthers cornerback Stephon Gilmore rushes for yardage after intercepting a pass by New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones during second quarter action at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC on Sunday, November 7, 2021.
Carolina Panthers cornerback Stephon Gilmore rushes for yardage after intercepting a pass by New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones during second quarter action at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC on Sunday, November 7, 2021.

4. CB Stephon Gilmore — 3

Though he’s played primarily on third downs, Gilmore has been the Panthers’ most consistent defensive back.

The Panthers traded for the 2019 NFL Defensive MVP in October.

He has played in only five games and is tied for the team lead with two interceptions. He has been targeted 10 times and has allowed six receptions for 37 yards, according to Pro Football Reference.

But he couldn’t come to an agreement with the Patriots on an extension. The biggest question is whether the Panthers would be willing to pay a lot of money to a cornerback who will be 32 next year.

5. C Matt Paradis — 1

Paradis was solid for the Panthers in his three seasons with the team, but the Panthers will likely be glad to have his salary off the books. Paradis tore his ACL against the Patriots last month. There’s little chance he returns.

6. S Juston Burris — 1

Burris hasn’t been bad in his two seasons with the Panthers. But the safety also hasn’t particularly stood out or made enough plays. The knock against him is he has had trouble staying healthy. He has played in only six games this year. He missed three in 2020.

Carolina Panthers defensive tackle DaQuan Jones, right, sacks Washington quarterback Taylor Heinicke, left, during second quarter action at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC on Sunday, November 21, 2021. Washington defeated the Panthers 27-21.
Carolina Panthers defensive tackle DaQuan Jones, right, sacks Washington quarterback Taylor Heinicke, left, during second quarter action at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC on Sunday, November 21, 2021. Washington defeated the Panthers 27-21.

7. DT DaQuan Jones — 3

Jones has been a good veteran presence for the Panthers’ defense. He’s dependable and doesn’t miss games, which is valued. He has 21 tackles and a sack this season.

8. DE/LB Marquis Haynes — 2

Haynes is good player. He showed that in the preseason and in his limited time this season. But he’s behind Burns, who is one of the two defensive stars. It’s hard to take Burns off the field. Haynes could get paid to potentially start or play more elsewhere.

Carolina Panthers Frankie Luvu celebrates at the Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C., on Saturday, August 21, 2021.
Carolina Panthers Frankie Luvu celebrates at the Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C., on Saturday, August 21, 2021.

9. LB Frankie Luvu — 3

Luvu has played well in his role as a backup edge rusher and special teams player. He blocked a punt earlier this season, which was returned for a touchdown. Whether he returns will depend on whether he believes there’s a better situation out there for him.

10. QB P.J. Walker — 5

Rhule trusts Walker, having coached him at Temple. And he has shown that, if needed, he can fill in and win a game for the Panthers. In two starts, he has two wins. He won’t cost a lot. He’ll return.

Carolina Panthers Ian Thomas runs the ball against the Philadelphia Eagles at the Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C., on Sunday, October 10, 2021.
Carolina Panthers Ian Thomas runs the ball against the Philadelphia Eagles at the Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C., on Sunday, October 10, 2021.

11. TE Ian Thomas — 2

Thomas just hasn’t been productive in the past two seasons. And the Panthers drafted rookie tight end Tommy Tremble and believe he can be a starter some day. Thomas has only 13 catches for 146 yards this season. The Panthers need more from that position.

12. LB Jermaine Carter — 2

Carter just doesn’t look like an ideal candidate to return. He has just been OK this year. After 12 weeks, he’s fourth on the team with 59 tackles. Most team’s tackle leaders are their middle linebackers.

13. LS J.J. Jansen — 2

Jansen, 35, hasn’t had a bad snap this season, and he’s played well enough to return.

But he is 35, and the Panthers drafted Thomas Fletcher, his future replacement.

14. RG John Miller — 3

Though he has battled through injuries and COVID this year, Miller is a solid starter when healthy. Rhule values his ability to play through injuries. If the price is right, he could return.

15. QB Matt Barkley — 1

Barkley was signed as insurance this season. There won’t be any reason to keep him. If Sam Darnold returns this year from IR, Barkley will likely be let go this year.

16. OL Trent Scott — 2

Scott has played nearly every position on the offensive line and filled in when needed. But he’s had some struggles this year. He’s allowed 13 pressures in six games this year, according to Pro Football Focus.

17. WR Alex Erickson — 1

Erickson was signed earlier this year off the Bengals’ practice squad to take over return duties. He’s averaging 8.3 yards per punt return, which wouldn’t warrant the Panthers re-signing him.

18. S Sean Chandler — 3

Although not a starter, Chandler is a quality backup safety, who filled in nicely when Burris was injured. He also has played a key role on special teams, including a first-down run on a punt fake in the Panthers’ loss to the Dolphins.

19. FB/TE Giovanni Ricci — 3

Ricci has shown he can be multi-dimensional when he made the jump from tight end to fullback. He also plays on special teams, which is valued.

20. TE Colin Thompson — 4

Thompson is well-liked. He played in 15 games last year and has played in nine this year. He won’t cost much to bring back.

21. WR Brandon Zylstra — 3

Zylstra has shown a lot of improvement from 2020 to 2021. He has 12 catches for 188 yards and a touchdown. He can also play special teams. It’ll just be a matter of whether the Panthers and his representation can come to an agreement on a deal.

22. CB Rashaan Melvin — 1

Melvin hasn’t spent longer than two years with any team. The Panthers’ cornerback room is deep, and there is no real reason to bring the 32-year-old cornerback back.

23. LB Julian Stanford — 3

Stanford is a good special teams player and has been for the past two seasons. He has 10 tackles this year.

24. OL Matt Kaskey — 1

Kaskey spent the season on IR.

25. Mike Panasiuk — 1

Panasiuk was a long shot to make the roster this year before he went on IR.

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