In my first ever article here for isportsweb, I wrote about the importance of locking up defensive tackle Kawaan Short after his masterful 2015 season. Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman didn’t get around to my article though, as the Purdue product never ended up putting pen to paper.
That all changed on Monday, however.
After the Panthers let Short play out the season on the fourth year of his deal, the team came to terms with the 6’3’’, 315 pound tackle on a 5 year, $80 million deal.
The deal removes the worry of a franchise tag, which was placed on Short earlier this offseason. The average annual salary of $16 million places Short third on the list of highest-paid defensive tackles in the league behind Ndamukong Suh and Fletcher Cox. This seems to be perfect territory for Short, who is consistently viewed as an elite interior tackle across the NFL.
The deal seems to be frontloaded, with $40 million coming in the first two seasons. This seems to be Gettleman realizing he has cap space available in the near future and values saving some money for long-term investments.
These possible future investments stem from efficient drafting for Carolina, as they have some work to do on extending more of the interior core, but this time on the offensive side of the ball.
Guards Andrew Norwell and Trai Turner are still on their rookie deals from when Carolina acquired them in 2014. The duo have been an impressive cog in protecting Cam Newton and opening up holes for the likes of Jonathan Stewart and Fozzy Whitaker.
Norwell, who signed his RFA this week, has flown under the radar across the league but has been a beast on the interior line. I fully expect Gettleman to value locking him up for the LG position.
Turner, on the other hand, has gained some notoriety across the league as an elite presence. The two-time pro bowler is just 23 years old and look like he could be an anchor of the Panthers offensive line for a decade. I expect his deal to be a bit larger than Norwell, but his talent is undeniable.
Going back to the defensive side of the ball, the Short extension spells out an interesting situation with Star Lotulelei.
Lotulelei was Dave Gettleman’s first ever draft pick when he was selected 14th overall by Carolina in the 2013 draft. He came into the league with Short as a tandem and they have changed the defense ever since. With Lotulelei entering the final year of his deal, his long-term status with Carolina is up in the air.
The tricky part about the situation is that Carolina invested its first-rounder into defensive tackle Vernon Butler last season. Even though Butler acts as more a 3-tech than a run stuffer like Star, it may be hard for Gettleman to commit so much money to one position.
Even though Lotulelei wouldn’t draw nearly as much as Short on a contract total, competition across free agency may drive his price up to a point where he may not be retained.
Panthers fans should be relieved that Short will be in Carolina for the next few years, but don’t forget to keep an eye out for how this deal affects future extensions.
With the draft just over a week away, the offseason continues to entertainingly chug on.