Good Ol’ Kawann Short has got to be looking around the Carolina Panthers locker room, seeing all the new faces, and wondering when he’s going to get a tap on the shoulder to go “have a chat” with Marty Hurney. All of the rest of the Panthers long-term, high-priced veterans are gone. Only KK remains. I feel dirty for saying this because I have a ton of respect for Kawann, but it’s probably in the Panthers best interest to look to trade their 31-year-old defensive stalwart.
The stark reality for the rebuilding Panthers is that it’s probably going to take a couple of years before this team is competitive again. “A couple of years” doesn’t fit Kawann Short’s career trajectory, cap hit, or contract length. KK has two years left on his current deal and carries a cap hit of $19.5 million this year and $20.8 million in 2021, his age 32 season.
The Panthers front office is blatantly (and smartly) freeing up cap space for 2021. Currently the team’s five highest cap hits in 2021 are Teddy Bridgewater ($23 million), Kawann Short ($21 million), Shaq Thompson ($14 million), Christian McCaffrey ($13 million), and Robby Anderson ($12 million). When the 2021 season kicks off next year, Bridgewater will be 28, Shaq will be 27, CMC will be 25, and Anderson will be 28. Those are good ages for a two-to-three year rebuild. Kawann Short will be 32 next year, making it hard to see him as part of the go-forward plan.
Carolina probably won’t be making a deep playoff run this year or next - with or without Short - so they might as well see what they can get for him via trade and move off his cap hit. I’d suspect more than a few contenders would kick the tires on a 2018 Pro Bowler who’s a veteran but still not “old”, though he is coming off an injury-shortened 2019 season. Plus, Carolina will eat the signing bonus so his cap hit won’t be nearly as hefty for the acquiring team.
If the Panthers were to deal Kawann this season as a post-June 1st trade, Spotrac shows the team would save a net $13.1 million in 2020 ($19.5 million cap hit minus $6.4 million dead money) and a net $9.8 million next year ($20.8 million cap hit minus $11.0 million dead money). If Carolina doesn’t spend the $13.1 million this year it can roll into next year, meaning the team could free up as much as $22.9 million in 2021.
Trading Short would be mostly about freeing up cap space than acquiring a great draft pick. The best comparison for Short’s market value is probably the 2018 trade sending Damon Harrison from the New York Giants to the Detroit Lions for a fifth round pick. Harrison turned 30 that season, was an All-Pro in 2016, and still had two-plus years remaining on a 5-year, $46.3 million deal. Another data point is the 2019 trade of Leonard Williams for a 2020 third round and a 2021 fifth round pick, but Williams was only 25 at the time and made the Pro Bowl in 2016, his second NFL season. For the sake of argument, let’s split the difference between these two trades and say Marty Hurney could find a team that would give up a fourth round pick for Kawann.
This means trading Short now would net Carolina $13.1 million in cap space this year, $9.8 million next year, and an extra fourth round pick. If you were the Panthers general manager, would you do it?
Now, the benefit of keeping KK in Charlotte is that he’d be a great mentor for first round rookie Derrick Brown. Short is a consummate professional and it would be great to have his professionalism and technique rub off on his heir apparent. Plus, the NFL can be difficult to predict. Maybe by 2021 the veteran quarterbacks with the New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Atlanta Falcons either retire or significantly decline, leaving the NFC South wide open. Perhaps the Panthers 2020 defensive-oriented draft class yields some promising young talent and with KK Short anchoring the defensive line Carolina could claim a 2021 conference championship. You never know with the NFL.
But the one thing we do know is the Panthers are rebuilding and Kawann Short’s age and cap hit don’t appear to align with the team’s immediate plans. KK might want to speak with Cam Newton, Greg Olsen, Trai Turner, Mario Addison, or Ryan Kalil to see if they know any good realtors, just in case.
If you were general manager, would you trade Kawann Short this year for a 2021 fourth round pick?
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