Now that attention is slowly turning to the Carolina Panthers 2017 season, one of the more common questions revolves around veteran players that may not return to the field in Carolina next year. There are quite a few possibilities. Some based on salary alone, some performance, and others a mixture of the two.
Here are a few players to keep an eye on that may be spending their final year in Carolina, in no particular order.
Cap Savings if released – 4.75 million
Stewart comes with a significant price tag next year for the Panthers, but has proven to be by far the most complete running back on the team. Some would say the only NFL caliber back. Throw in the fact that he is also top notch when it comes to protecting Cam Newton and it makes his price tag more reasonable. Still, there is a chance he will no longer be a Carolina Panther. Much will have to do with the draft. If the Panthers grab a runner in round 1, it could spell trouble for Stewart.
Cap Savings if released – 1 million
Tolbert’s performance in 2017 has been less than stellar, to put it nicely. Tolbert has been ineffective as a runner, receiver, and blocking fullback. A great guy that everyone loves, but Gettleman isn’t the sentimental type. That 1 million can be better spent elsewhere. I suspect Tolbert is a cap casualty this year.
Ted Ginn is an unrestricted free agent once again next year. Last time this happened, he skipped town for greener paychecks. This year he may be more willing to stay in Carolina as he has had such great chemistry with Cam Newton. I suspect he will be signed by the Panthers again, to a one year contract at a reasonable cost. I don’t see him getting the kind of attention in free agency that would pull him away.
Short is also an unrestricted free agent next season. Short has regressed a bit from his stellar 2015 season, so his price tag should reflect that. Now he is merely listed as a top 10 defensive tackle, not a top 2 or 3. Kawann Short will want Cam Newton or Luke Kuechly money. Does his production justify that? Maybe. Maybe not. Gettleman could decide to franchise tag Short for a single year and let Butler continue to develop as his replacement. That sounds fairly likely.
Yes, the much maligned Mike Remmers is an unrestricted free agent in 2017 after signing a 1 year deal. Remmers catches a lot of hate from Panthers fans, but he is a serviceable right tackle. I suspect the Panthers will offer him a low to moderately low salary. As a backup, Remmers has real value on this team. He is able to play both tackle positions and center as well. That fact in itself is worth keeping him around for a couple of million.
AJ Klein is a starting middle linebacker in the NFL on a team that has a better option at middle linebacker. Klein will probably end up playing for the Packers next season if I had to guess. He will get starting money, which the Panthers will not pay him (and rightfully so). David Mayo will take his place on the depth chart.
A unrestricted free agent in 2017, Charles Johnson may not be in Carolina. The Panthers signed Johnson to a one year contract last season, signifying limited interest in his services long term. Johnson will only be 31 years old next season and still has some gas left in the tank, but also has had nagging injuries the past few seasons. He may draw interest outside of Carolina for his services. Tampa Bay could be a landing spot for him. Still, he is a veteran guy loyal to Carolina. The Panthers could decide to keep him another season.