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Panthers cap casualty and restructure primer

It’s March, so it’s time to save some money.

Carolina Panthers v Washington Commanders Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

The Carolina Panthers come into the 2023 offseason with negative cap space. They’ll have to clear up some space just to sign draft picks, and they’ll also want to sign some depth in free agency. Fortunately, they have some avenues to free up some space.

Potential cap casualties

Pat Elflein
Cap hit: $7.1 million. Potential savings: $4.3 million.
Elflein seems like the most likely player to be let go as we approach free agency. He started the 2022 season as the team’s primary option at center, but he missed the final 11 games of the season with a hip injury. Bradley Bozeman played very well in his absence and is the favorite to be the team’s starting center should they retain him. Also working against Elflein is the fact that the $4.3 million in savings the team would receive by releasing him is the second most of anyone on the roster.

Damien Wilson
Cap hit: $4.7 million. Potential savings: $3.6 million.
Wilson played the majority of his snaps on special teams last season. The Panthers could probably fill that role with cheaper options and save a few million dollars by letting Wilson go.

Stantley Thomas-Oliver
Cap hit: $1.04 million. Potential savings: $1.01 million.
The former 7th round pick has spent the majority of the last two seasons on injured reserve and didn’t play a single snap on defense in the three games he was active for in 2022. It’s not going to move the needle much, but if the Panthers are trying to maximize space, they can probably make a small dent here.

Restructure candidates

Taylor Moton
Cap hit: $24.54 million. Potential savings: $11.15 million.
Moton has three more years left on his deal. The Panthers can convert most of his $11 million base salary for 2023 into a signing bonus and spread that over those three years to save an eight figure dollar amount against the cap.

DJ Moore
Cap hit: $25.04 million. Potential savings: $12.72 million.
Moore has the largest cap hit on the roster heading into the offseason. He, like Moton, has three years left on his deal that the Panthers could spread some cap hit across.

Extension candidates

Shaq Thompson
Cap hit: $24.46 million
Thompson has an astronomical cap hit going into the final season of his deal. The team could save $13.16 million by releasing him, but it seems more likely that the team would elect to extend him and structure the deal in such a way to bring his cap number down by several million dollars.

Brian Burns
Cap hit: $16.01 million
Burns is almost certainly going to sign a massive extension in the offseason. The Panthers can give Burns a low base salary in year one of his new deal to save a few million here.

All of those moves could save the Panthers $30 to $40 million in cap space, which is more than enough to sign draft picks and acquire some good free agent pieces on the open market in a few weeks.