Matt Kalil – More reward than risk for Carolina Panthers

The Carolina Panthers upcoming signing of left tackle Matt Kalil is all the talk in Panthers nation currently, with reviews and critiques mainly trending from bad to worse. What was initially mostly positive reactions turned sour once the information on contact dollars became available. Now it seems Panthers fans are having more than their fair share of buyer’s remorse. But is it warranted? Let’s take a look.

Criticism 1 – The Panthers are paying him how much?!

A 50 million dollar contract sounds like a lot, and indeed it is a good chunk of change. However, only 25 million of that money is in the form of a signing bonus. That 25 million will be pro-rated throughout the five seasons at 5 million a year. Looking around the league, 5 million a year in guaranteed money for a starting left tackle is not news worthy, not even close.

The base salary is the information we need in order to form an educated opinion on the matter. I suspect the base salary is more team friendly in the first two years to help mitigate the risk involved in signing a player coming off of surgery. It would not shock me to see Kalil’s cap hit to be in the range of 8 million dollars in years one and two. This would lane him just outside of the top 10 highest paid left tackles.

A bit pricey? Yes. Outrageous? Hardly.

The Carolina Panthers had no choice in this matter. They absolutely needed a left tackle and chose one with the most upside. If Kalil is able to put together just an average performance, this deal will no longer be a discussion point. Remember, Michael Oher was one of the worst rated run blocking tackles in the league. Improving on that may not be too difficult.

Criticism 2 – He is awful!

I have seen Matt Kalil called the worst offensive tackle in the league by more than one twitter expert. If true, why would Minnesota still try to retain his services at 10 million a year? Either twitter scouts know more than NFL executives that work with Kalil daily, or Kalil’s ability is not reflected in the opinions of casual observers.

Matt Kalil never had a stable offensive line in Minnesota. More than any other group on the playing field, the offensive line is a unit that relies on chemistry and trust. We all have seen this played out with the Carolina Panthers. The one year the Panthers did have offensive line unity throughout an entire season, the Panthers won the NFC Championship.

The lack of a stable offensive line would be something the Minnesota executives understand and take into consideration when assessing their players. They are the only ones that know the play calls, the protections assigned to Kalil, to be able to adequately critique his play. As it turns out, they still wanted him in Minnesota and were willing to pay him top 10 money. What does that tell you?

Criticism 3 – He is always injured! 

While Kalil has dealt with nagging injuries throughout his career, he was able to start every single game from 2012 – 2015. Four seasons, sixty four starts, zero games missed. Then in 2016, Kalil’s right hip had gotten to the point that correction was needed through surgery. Kalil was placed on IR last September.

Recovering from surgery is always a concern, especially when signing a free agent. How could the Carolina Panthers be sure Kalil is as healthy as he advertised with league rules prohibiting contact with the players? If only the Panthers had someone they trust working out with Matt Kalil, maybe then they could be sure.

As it happens, Carolina Panthers center Ryan Kalil was working out with his brother Matt on a daily basis.

“Frank Kalil, an offensive lineman who was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in 1982 and played in the USFL from 1983-85, said his son has been working out in his native California with his brother, Carolina center Ryan Kalil.”

I am willing to bet Ryan Kalil gave plenty of unsolicited updates to his coaching staff on his brother’s recovery. This would make the Panthers the second most informed team in the league on the topic Matt Kalil.

Taking all things into consideration, the Carolina Panthers were able to make an informed and reasoned decision on Matt Kalil and decided the rewards outweighed the risk.

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Jeremy Igo is owner of Carolina Huddle. Based in Charlotte, he has covered the Carolina Panthers for over a decade.