We’re 80 days away from the Carolina Panthers 2021 season opener, so that means today’s countdown piece is devoted to No. 80 on the roster — tight end Ian Thomas.
The Panthers selected Thomas in the fourth round (No. 101 overall) in the 2018 NFL Draft. In his three seasons with the Panthers, Thomas has caught 72 passes for 614 yards and 4 touchdowns. He’s had a mostly disappointing start to his career, but he is only 25 years old and has a chance in his fourth year to make an impact on the team.
Panthers head coach Matt Rhule has spoken highly of Thomas this offseason, saying “Ian has had a tremendous offseason ... He looks explosive, he looks athletic; if you’re talking about a guy that’s had a great offseason, I’d say Ian Thomas.”
With the additions of Dan Arnold in free agency and Tommy Tremble in the 2021 NFL Draft, the opportunities for Thomas to shine will be more limited than they were in 2020 where he played 65 percent of snaps on offense (and logged 20 catches for 145 yards and 1 touchdown). The 2021 season will be a make-or-break one for Thomas, and with free agency looming he’ll need to have a breakout year this season if he wants to cash in on a second contract (whether that be with Carolina or elsewhere).
What do you think, Panthers fans? What kind of production do you expect to see from Thomas this year? Do you think he’ll earn a second contract, or will the Panthers let him go to free agency? Share your thoughts with us!