The Carolina Panthers without a shadow of a doubt had their best season in franchise history. They won 15 out of 16 regular season games, set the franchise record in points scored, outscored their two playoff opponents by a combined 80-39 before coming up short against the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50.
The Panthers have won the NFC South division title three straight years now and while it may be hard to surpass some of the achievements of 2015, this team is built for the long-term.
General Manager Dave Gettleman has done an excellent job since taking over in 2011 of purging bad contracts to create cap space, drafting well and finding excellent value in free agency to create one of the most complete rosters in the NFL.
Entering 2016, the Panthers will only be without three starters from the previous season (Josh Norman, Roman Harper and Brad Nortman) and don't lose any on the offensive side of the ball. However, what is even more impressive than that is the team has 17 of their 22 starters on offense and defense under contract through at least 2017.
Panthers' Free Agents After 2016
|Ted Ginn Jr.||WR|
The Panthers have been trying to reach extensions with two of the players (Short and Coleman) and will continue to work towards deals leading up to the regular season. They also have two players, Norwell and Brown, who are restricted free agents and can match any offer they receive. While there are seven players on this list, there is the possibility it could go down.
Gettleman has proven over the years that he has been able to find bargains in free agents and talent among the undrafted free agents. However, this strategy only works when you have some of the best at key positions and the Panthers have that. More importantly, they have them for the foreseeable future.
The case could be made that the three most have three key figures on a team are quarterback, middle linebacker and head coach. The Panthers have these three signed through the 2018 season: Cam Newton, Luke Kuechly and head coach Ron Rivera. The Panthers starting quarterback, who is an MVP, their middle linebacker, who has won Defensive Player of the Year, are signed through the 2019 season. Their head coach, Rivera, is signed through 2018 after agreeing to a three-year deal this offseason.
The Panthers may not match all their totals from 2015 however they should once again be in the hunt for the NFC South title and earn their fourth trip to the postseason.
*Contract terms courtesy of Spotrac.com, unless otherwise noted.