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The Carolina Panthers are the best team in the NFL... at incurring dead money

Marty Hurney has piled up more dead money than any other general manager, and it’s not even close.

Don’t worry, Carolina Panthers fans. It’s not all doom and gloom around here. Yes, Carolina ended last year on an eight-game losing streak, had one of the NFL’s worst defenses, produced the league’s lowest team quarterback rating, then saw several of its marquee players depart Charlotte this offseason. Amid all of those NFL worsts, the Panthers are starting 2020 as the clear league leader in one category:

Dead money, baby!

For the uninformed, per, dead money refers to salary a team has already paid or has committed to paying (i.e., a signing bonus, fully guaranteed base salaries, earned bonuses, etc.) but has not been charged against the salary cap. If there is dead money in a player’s contract and he is released or retires, that charge will accelerate onto the team’s salary cap for the current year (or over two seasons with a post-June 1st release).

According to Spotrac, the Panthers have currently incurred more dead money than any other team in the NFL, and it’s not even close. Here are the top five:

Dead money by team

Team Dead Cap
Team Dead Cap
Carolina Panthers $34.9M
Jacksonville Jaguars $12.5M
Washington $11.1M
New York Giants $10.9M
Miami Dolphins $10.7M

That’s right, the Panthers $34.9 million is currently more than the next three highest dead cap hits combined.

In Marty Hurney’s defense, $11.9 million of that dead money was thrust on him when Luke Kuechly shockingly retired. But even with Kuechly out of the equation, Carolina would still have the most dead money in the NFL at $23 million, nearly double the next highest amount in the league.

The majority of the remaining dead money was generated from releasing Matt Kalil ($9.8 million) and the announced trade of Trai Turner ($9.6 million). When the Panthers parted ways with Kalil in 2019 the move was counted as a post-June 1 release, meaning the dead money was spread between 2019 and 2020. The move saved the Panthers roughly $7 million against the 2019 salary cap, but they’re going to pay big time for the Kalil debacle in 2020.

Trading Turner will technically save the Panthers about $3.3 million in net cap space in 2020, but that’s actually terrible for the Panthers. What would you rather have: A 26-year-old guard who has made five consecutive Pro Bowls, or $3.3 million in extra cap space? (That’s a rhetorical question.)

The departure of Greg Olsen created another $3.7 million in dead money and Mario Addison is accounting for $1.5 million. That’s all of the big ticket items.

Not all dead money is bad, per se. Sometimes incurring dead money to get off a bad long-term contract like Matt Kalil’s deal is actually the smart thing to do. But what’s frustrating about the Panthers current dead cap situation is it’s mainly the result of bad signings (Kalil) or having to blow up a roster because the franchise is in the dumps (Turner, Olsen). And Kuechly’s dead money is just the football gods kicking us while we’re down.

The Panthers are finally the best in the NFL at something. Too bad it’s this.