Earlier this month, general manager Dave Gettleman said in reference to free agency, “Last year we were shopping at the Dollar Store. This year we might be able to move up in class a little.” Due to the salary cap issues, the Panthers front office had to pursue players like Jerricho Cotchery and Thomas Decoud as they watched players like Brandon LaFell and Mike Mitchell sign larger contracts with other teams.
Those moves a season ago has put the Panthers in position this year to address some key needs and hopefully improve the team for 2015. According to Overthecap.com, the Panthers currently rank 21st in the NFL in cap space with $11,816,424 to work with. The article by USA Today stated that the Panthers are $14 million dollars under the salary cap. Either way it is certainly better than the $16 million the Panthers were over the cap in 2013, when Gettleman took over as general manager.
While this money does provide a little bit of room to work in free agency, it probably isn’t enough for any big name players. One of the biggest problems the Panthers have is they still are carrying a lot of Dead Money, which is basically any money that was guaranteed to a player at the time of their release.
If a player is giving a signing bonus at the time he signs a contract, he is given (X) amount immediately at that time. However, NFL teams are able to prorate that amount over five years so they don’t take a huge hit against their salary cap at that time. If a player is cut before those five years are up, this prorated amount will still count towards the salary cap.
Entering this year, the Panthers have $7,361,686 in dead money which is the fifth highest total in the NFL. The NFL base salary cap is expected to be around $140,000,000 this year. This means that 20 percent of the Panthers salary cap goes to players no longer on the roster. The majority of that dead money goes to two players: Steve Smith ($4 million) and Charles Godfrey ($3 million).
The other reason that the Panthers may not be as active or go after those top free agents is the fact that after the 2015 season there are key players currently on the roster who will be looking for new contracts. Players like Cam Newton, Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis, Greg Olsen and Josh Norman could all potentially be free agents and the Panthers will want to have as much room as possible to bring back as many of these players as they can.
The Panthers have had to shop at the Dollar Store the past few years but it doesn’t look like the front office will have that much room to move up too much in class this offseason.