Johnson will need to agree to restructure his contract or the team will cut him, team sources told Joseph Person and Jonathan Jones of the Charlotte Observer. He's due to make $10.75 million in 2016, and his salary-cap hit of $15 million is reportedly more than the team is willing to absorb.
This is where Dave Gettleman makes the big bucks because this might be his trickiest decision all summer. To paraphrase Gettleman from prior interviews he strives 'to place the proper value' on a player. So what is Charles Johnson real value going into the 2016 season?
Well for starters he plays one of the most valued positions on the team, defensive end. It is a position where you expect to spend big bucks. The flip side is you need the return on the investment. If you look just at Johnson's production last season he certainly falls short. Yet Johnson has an impressive resume plus a ton of Panther tenure. Gettleman doesn't seem to put a lot of weight on those items though.
Does he look at Johnson as costing the $15M cap hit or maybe just the $11M in savings he could use to sign a free agent? He can start Kony Ealy on either side of the line so he can be flexible in who he decides to go after. We already know Chris Long is available. Maybe Robert Ayers or even DaQuan Bowers could line up opposite Ealy. I would bet $11M would bring in any of those players...maybe. Some owners get crazy this time of year.
It's a tough decision for sure. What is comes down too is whether he feels Johnson will bounce back this season from an injury-plagued 2015. If so, a healthy productive Johnson over the RT would be helpful to Ealy on the other side. Could any of the available free agents guarantee that? Another good question.
I'd like to see Johnson stay but the last hurdle to overcome is what would an extension/restructure look like? He's on the last year of his mega deal so it seems adding another season or two is a no-brainer to get it done. Johnson is only 29 so he should certainly be able to play a few more seasons, provided he stays healthy of course.
This all presumes Johnson is even willing to restructure. He could play hard ball though I'm doubting it. I'm doubting that his value would be greater on the free agent market than the $15M he will get paid in the final year of his contract. His reasoning would have to be that he wants a longer term deal than to work out this last year of his current contract.
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