The Carolina Panthers don’t have very much cap space to work with and still have several gaping roster holes to fill. CSR’s Billy Marshall wrote an excellent piece about how the Panthers could immediately free up nearly $14 million in cap space by re-working the contracts of Luke Kuechly and Kawann Short. I have another way to immediately free up an additional $7.1 million in cap room.
It’s cold hearted. It’s awful. It makes me feel like a jerk to even suggest it, but here goes:
The Panthers could free up $7.1 million by cutting center Ryan Kalil.
The 11-year veteran has a cap hit of $9.9 million in 2018. If the Panthers cut him now they would free up $7.1 million in cap space and incur $2.8 million in dead money, per Over the Cap. The Panthers need all the cap space they can get right now, and an additional $7.1 million could go a long way.
The reason to keep Kalil
First, I love Kalil. He’s one of the Panthers all-time greats and he has already announced he will retire after the 2018 season. It just feels right to let him go out on his own terms. (Note: I think it was a shrewd self-preservation move by Ryan to announce his retirement plans early, thus making it harder from a PR standpoint for the Panthers to release him, but I digress.)
But even more than the sentimental reasons for keeping him, Kalil is the brains behind Carolina’s offensive line by calling out protections. Injuries have derailed his last two seasons but the guy was an All-Pro as recently as 2015. He turns 33 later this month which makes him older for a lineman, but not necessarily over the hill. A healthy, motivated, this-is-my-final-season Ryan Kalil is probably better than any other center the Panthers could find via free agency or the draft.
If the veteran center can stay healthy and finish his career with a flourish, he’s probably worth the $9.9 million cap hit for a Panthers team that went 11-5 last year and is in “win now” mode.
The reasons to cut Kalil
There are two simple and straightforward reasons to release Ryan Kalil – cap space and injury risk.
The Panthers have been making splashes early on in free agency but still have a number of roster holes. An additional $7.1 million in cap space could allow Carolina to get an impact starter or a couple of veteran contributors.
Kalil’s injury history is also a major red flag. He has played in just 14 of 32 regular season games over the last two seasons and he played in just five games in 2012. He hasn’t played more than half the season in three of the last six years.
In 2017 Kalil played in just six games and was not very effective when he was on the field. Tyler Larsen did a serviceable job filling in at center and posted a superior PFF rating of 67.8 (16th among centers) to Kalil’s injury-plagued 46.6 rating (26th among centers). PFF isn’t perfect, but it is a helpful data point.
Let’s assume for a moment that Kalil isn’t open to taking a pay cut to play in 2018. He’s either going to get paid as outlined in his contract or the Panthers will need to release him outright. If you were Carolina’s GM, what would you do?
Option 1: Keep Kalil with a $9.9 million cap hit and expect a rebound season to close out the career of an all-time Panthers great.
Option 2: Cut Kalil to free up $7.1 million in cap space and rely on Tyler Larsen or draft a rookie replacement.
It’s a tough call. As for me, I have nothing but love for Ryan Kalil but his injury risk and cap hit would cause me to release him if I was Carolina’s GM. That being said, I would be second guessing myself the entire season if the team got subpar production from his replacement. Then again, if I kept Kalil and he got injured early I’d be kicking myself for ignoring the red flags while daydreaming of what I could have done with an extra $7.1 million in cap space.
It’s a tough decision and it could backfire either way, so I’d err on the side of guessing his recent injury history will be repeated in 2018, hence the release. I still hate that decision, though.
What would you do?
If you were the Panthers general manager, what would you do?
This poll is closed
Keep him on his current deal
Release him for the $7.1 million in cap space