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Panthers 2008 Salary Cap Analysis

I’ve seen a number of pundits expound the dire straits of the Panthers salary cap problems in 2008 so I thought I would take a look at it myself.

Peter King is one of those pundits:

So you want to know how active your team will be with a good free-agency market coming up in three months? Here's a chart of how much cap space each team was due to have next spring as of Saturday, along with how many players each team has under contract:

#29 Carolina with 35 players under contract and only $6.05M under the projected 2008 cap (Approx. $116M).

You can see why the dire outlook is forthcoming. I found another source for 2008 salary data and have now listed all players scheduled to make over $1M in 2008. Please note some of this data is estimates as full disclosure of signing and roster bonuses is not always provided. I then highlighted the players I think we have adequate back-ups to replace their 2007 production.

2008 Cap Cost
Baker – 1.367
Beason – 1.01
Bridges – 1.85
Carr – 3.6
Davis – 2.096
Delhomme – 10.957 (up from 6.167)
Foster – 6.75 (up from 4.25)
Gamble – 1.603
Hartwig – 3.75
Jenkins – 7.745
Keyshawn – 2.5 (Can you believe we will pay him another year for nothing?)
Kasay – 1.9
Kemoeatu – 5.075
Lucas – 6.405
Minter – 2.2 (yes, we are still paying him too)
Morgan – 4.55
Peppers – 11.403
Smith – 11.009
Wahle – 7.242
Williams – 1.47

That’s $39.222M dollars just from the highlighted players. I don’t have Na’il Diggs contract numbers yet but he made $1.3M in 2007 so I imagine he should be on this list. Mike Rucker made $4.437M in 2007 but if he decides to play another year there’s no way the Panthers offer him that kind of money though I’m sure he would get more than $1M. Now let’s look at each player in depth:

RG Jeremy Bridges – I thought the coaching staff was happy with Bridges but remember when he missed the last two games? I thought it was because of injury but then I saw an article where he was actually benched. He is now listed behind Geoff Hangartner on the depth chart, who made $470k in 2007 and is not under contract for 2008 at this point. I bet we could resign Geoff for half of what Bridges made last season.

QB David Carr – Why is this guy still on the roster?

RB DeShaun Foster – Everyone agrees DeAngelo Williams should be the starter next season. The Panthers are sure to look for a power running back in this draft making Foster and his high salary (and fumbles) expendable.

C Justin Hartwig – He played ok except for the Tennessee game when Albert Haynesworth abused him. When he missed the last two games due to injury Ryan Kalil filled in admirably. I say lets go with the youth movement.

DT Ma’ake Kemoeatu – The Panthers finished the season ranked 17th in rushing defense which is not a performance worthy of a playoff caliber team. Kemo finished the season 9th in tackles on the Panthers with 40 solo and 46 combined, an average performance at best. IMO, we should keep Jenkins and replace Kemo with Kindall Moorehead or a cheaper replacement in free agency.  

CB Ken Lucas – Lucas is the guy I would have the most trouble cutting on defense. He is a play-maker and a good hitter though some people might argue he has lost a step the last year. He doesn’t always wrap up on his tackles too and can get burned sometimes. We all know Richard Marshall is ready to start so rather than debating who is better – Lucas or Gamble, I would let the money talk. Gamble is a ton cheaper than Lucas. The only problem would be finding a CB to play the nickel.

LB Dan Morgan - I'm a Dan Morgan fan but the reality is no one has confidence he can last a whole season. Heck, he's one bad hit from retirement. We all know Jon Beason is now the man in the middle.

LG Mike Wahle – Wahle is the guy I would have the toughest time cutting on offense. He’s a good player but I think he is past his prime. Also, we have no depth behind him so we would have to find a replacement via free agency, no easy task. Wahle is also a leader on the offensive and overall looks like one bad ass I don’t want to piss off. It must be the bald head, scowl and tats he sports.

With a tad under $40M we could go out and find a safety, a power running back, a guard or two, a #2 WR and some depth to replace these players. If we need more room I bet we could resign Peppers but rework his contract to help out the cap situation in 2008. Regardless, it’s apparent to me that in spite of the cap problems on the surface the Panthers could solve most of the problem by making a few tough decisions that in reality need to be made anyway.