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The 2022 Carolina Panthers free agents list and analysis

A few headliners and a lot of depth are poised to walk out of the door.

Minnesota Vikings v Carolina Panthers Photo by Mike Comer/Getty Images

With all of the self-inflicted wounds and existential quandaries facing the current iteration of the Carolina Panthers it can be easy to forget that they have regularly scheduled questions to answer. Mock draft season is upon us and free agency is just around the corner. The team published a list of players who are entering either unrestricted or exclusive rights free agency this off season. That list is here. On this page we’ll discuss some of the highlights and probable consequences of the decisions they will want to—or have to—make with their approximately $28 million in cap space for the 2022 season.

Haason Reddick

This guy was hands down the best free agent signing the Panthers have seen in years. While his production tapered down the stretch, he was an impact player in every game and one of the major reasons why the Panthers defense was able to look competent in spite of it’s long train of injuries.

He was on a one year, $6 million prove it deal and built a hot market for himself. The Panthers will want him back, but it will take creative accounting to fit him and all of their other needs under the same salary cap. Look for Reddick to get a three to four year deal worth somewhere around $15-18 million per year, depending on just how hot that market is.

Frankie Luvu, the highlight reel back up behind Reddick, is also entering free agency. It will be interesting to see if his smoke from this season translates into a real market or if the Panthers can bring him back as a role player.

Stephon Gilmore & Donte Jackson

The Panthers have painted themselves into an odd corner with their current defensive backs. Jackson and Gilmore both have high ceilings and numerous question marks to pair with their experience and likely high contract demands. Meanwhile, the team has an abundance of youth they believe in at corner, but nobody was able to stay healthy enough to prove anything this year. What they will do is anybody’s guess, but we do know that Scott Fitterer still carries fond memories of his Legion of Boom days. If the Panthers were to overinvest at a luxury position, this would be it.

Look for Gilmore and Jackson to both want contracts in the neighborhood of $14 million per year. Jackson may want more money initially and will probably also be looking for a longer term contract than Gilmore, which gives teams more options to play with the impact of his contract on their cap space.

Juston Burris

Carolina is set to lose one of their starting safeties in free agency. This is one of the few clear cut starters that the team has to account for this offseason. He played in Charlotte for the last two years on a deal that averaged $4 million per year. That is a reasonable floor for his market this season.

The other factor to consider here is that many mock drafts have the Panthers taking a safety in the first round of the 2022 draft, which would make another $4 million invested in the secondary a luxury. I don’t give this scenario a lot of weight, however, because I don’t think that the Panthers can reasonably expect Matt Rhule to play both guard and center at the same time while also coaching the team.

Jermaine Carter, Jr

There are perilously few linebackers on the Panthers roster and Carter is one of the few who played reasonably well over the last season. He also had the distinction of being healthy often. He was no Luke Kuechly or Jon Beason, but Panthers fans are spoiled if they expect that from every player to man the middle linebacker position. Carter was competent enough to warrant bringing back, though it is unclear how the rest of the NFL views him or what his actual value will be on the open market.

Cam Newton

Hoo, buddy. I think we all know this is it, at least in Charlotte. I don’t know if a team with an offensive line would be interested in spinning his wheels one last time. I hope so. I don’t want to be done watching Cam play football, but, barring some major changes in the Panthers leadership, I think we have seem him play his last snap in a Panthers uniform.

John Miller & Matt Paradis

The interior of the Panthers offensive line spent 2021 proving a dire need for a talent infusion. While Miller drew the praise of Rhule early and often during his injury-fueled absences in the first half of the season, the only noise that Paradis has raised has been criticism from fans over the last two seasons.

Both guys are quite reasonable depth, but they haven’t given any indication that they are better than replacement level talent at their current age (Paradis, 32) or health histories (Miller, multiple). Don’t look for them to move the needle on the Panthers 2022 needs if they re-sign here.

Longtime lineman Trent Scott is also due to hit free agency. These are the guys the Panthers need to be upgrading from, but their departure does heavily underline the need for both talent and bodies as the team approaches free agency and the draft.

Other notable free agents: LS JJ Jansen, DT, Daquon Jones, LB Julian Stanford, TE Ian Thomas, WR/K/QB Brandon Zylstra