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The rarity of the Panthers giving contract extensions to the players they draft

Only a small number of players stay in Charlotte after the end of their rookie contracts.

NFL: New York Giants at Chicago Bears Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

Somebody might want to tell the Panthers 2021 rookie class to look to rent in Charlotte, not buy.

When rookies are drafted they automatically receive four-year contracts. During those first four seasons teams have every incentive to keep the player on the roster and develop them into long-term contributors. Rookies enter the league with high upside and low cap hits while front offices don’t want to carry the stigma of drafting prospects who turn into busts.

But let’s look beyond those four-year rookie contracts and evaluate the Panthers ability to draft players then keep them on the roster for five or more seasons. These are the players Carolina drafted, developed, then retained over the long term. When looking at the data, it’s rare to find players the Panthers kept around after their first four seasons.

Of the 53 players the Panthers selected between 2009 and 2016, only 10 were still on Carolina’s roster after the end of their four-year rookie contracts. That’s a 19 percent hit rate for extending players into Year 5.

But of those 10 who survived in Carolina into Year 5, four of them were gone one year later. This means only six of 53 players the Panthers drafted between 2009 and 2016 lasted in Charlotte through six professional seasons: Shaq Thompson, Trai Turner, Kawann Short, Luke Kuechly, Amini Silatolu, and Cam Newton.

(Yes, people, we have an Amini Silatolu sighting!)

Here are all of the players the Panthers drafted between 2009 and 2016 divided between those who were still on Carolina’s roster in Year 5 and those who weren’t. Asterisks denote players who stayed in Carolina for Year 5 but were gone by Year 6. Players in bold weren’t on Carolina’s roster in Year 5 but still went on to have meaningful careers elsewhere.


Five or more - None

Four or less - DT Vernon Butler (1-30), CB James Bradberry (2-62), CB Daryl Worley (3-77), CB Zack Sanchez (5-141), TE Beau Sandland (7-252)


Five or more - LB Shaq Thompson (1-25), OT Daryl Williams* (4-102)

Four or less - WR Devin Funchess (2-41), LB David Mayo (5-169), RB Cameron Artis-Payne (5-174)


Five or more - G Trai Turner (3-92)

Four or less - WR Kelvin Benjamin (1-28), DE Kony Ealy (2-60), S Tre Boston (4-128), DB Bene Benwikere (5-148), RB Tyler Gaffney (6-204). (Note: Tre Boston spent his first three seasons in Carolina, got waived in 2017, then returned in 2019).


Five or more - DT Star Lotulei* (1-14), DT Kawann Short (2-44)

Four or less - OL Edmund Kugbila (4-108), LB AJ Klein (5-148), RB Kenjon Barner (6-182)


Five or more - LB Luke Kuechly (1-9), G Amini Silatolu (2-40)

Four or less - DE Frank Alexander (4-103), WR Joe Adams (4-104), CB Josh Norman (5-143), P Brad Nortman (6-207), DB DJ Campbell (7-216)


Five or more - QB Cam Newton (1-1)

Four or less - DT Terrell McClain (3-65), DT Sione Fua (3-97), DB Brandon Hogan (4-98), WR Kealoha Pilares (5-132), LB Lawrence Wilson (6-166), OL Zachary Williams (6-203), OL Lee Ziemba (7-244)


Five or more - DE Greg Hardy* (6-175)

Four or less - QB Jimmy Clausen (2-48), WR Brandon LaFell (2-78), WR Armanti Edwards (3-89), LB Eric Norwood (4-124), WR David Gettis (6-198), DB Jordan Pugh (6-202), QB Tony Pike (6-204), DB RJ Standord (7-223), DB Robert McClain (7-249)


Five or more - CB Captain Munnerlyn* (7-216)

Four or less - DE Everett Brown (2-43), DB Sherrod Martin (2-59), DT Corvey Irvin (3-93), RB Mike Goodson (4-111), RB Tony Fiametta (4-128), G Duke Robinson (5-163)

Something interesting to note is the round in which the 10 players who stayed more than four years in Carolina were drafted. Four players were first rounders, which is to be expected, but then it gets a bit surprising. Of the remaining six, there were two second round selections (Short and Silatolu), then one in the third (Turner), fourth (Williams), sixth (Hardy), and seventh (Munnerlyn).

Over these eight drafts the Panthers selected 15 players in the second and third rounds and only Short, Silatolu, and Turner survived beyond their rookie contracts. That’s not a great long-term hit rate for players taken in Rounds 2-3 where teams should be able to regularly find solid starters.

In fairness to the front office, they have to work within the realities of the salary cap. All indications are the Panthers front office would have liked to retain guys like James Bradberry and Curtis Samuel but they got better offers elsewhere. Bradberry landed a 3-year, $43.5 million deal with the Giants while Samuel signed with the Washington Football Team for 3-years, $34.5 million. But that’s just the going rate for difference-making talent in the primes of their careers like Bradberry, a 2020 Pro Bowler as a Giant, the versatile Samuel who just produced over 1,000 scrimmage yards and is getting better every year. Smart front offices not only draft long-term talent, they also prudently manage the salary cap to be able to retain that talent over the long term.

Sometimes when rookies are drafted we ask ourselves if they can be Day 1 starters or if they can contribute in their first season. That’s important, no doubt, but so is longevity. Hopefully the Panthers new front office not only drafted players in 2021 who can make an impact this season, but they can keep them in Carolina to do the same in Year 5 and beyond.