New head coach Dave Canales and new general manager Dan Morgan have stolen all Carolina Panthers-related headlines over the last few days with their introductory press conference that included powerful quotes and the news that Ejiro Evero is expected to stay on as defensive coordinator. That press conference on Thursday marked the beginning of what is supposed to be a revival of the Panthers franchise. Those two are seen as the guiding forces for that revival, but the team made another hire late in the afternoon the day prior that is going to have equally large ramifications on the future of the team.
Brandt Tilis was officially announced as the team’s new Executive Vice President of Football Operations. He had previously served in a similar but shorter reaching role as the vice president of football operations for the Kansas City Chiefs. He worked his way up the administrative side of the building to get there.
In Carolina, Tilis will presumably reprise the role of lead contract negotiator that he held in Kansas City since 2017. He’s been highly regarded in that role, and it’s easy to see why. The Chiefs’ roster construction is practically immaculate. They’re in the Super Bowl, again, and only have a couple of important free agents they need to tend to in the offseason. Patrick Mahomes is going to account for almost $60 million in cap space, yet the Chiefs start the 2024 offseason with essentially the same amount of cap space as your Carolina Panthers. They’ve managed to do that by carrying one of the lowest dead money (cap allocations to players not on the roster) figures in the league into the offseason—about $500,000.
It’s a striking comparison to the Panthers. Both teams have a key defensive lineman to re-sign in the offseason and have similar resources to do it. But the Chiefs are set up that way with a Super Bowl roster and a quarterback set to take up a huge segment of the cap. The Panthers have arguably the worst roster in the NFL and a starting quarterback on a rookie contract. Somehow they’re spending the same amount of money on their roster as the Chiefs.
That alone is enough to be excited about the expertise Tilis will bring to the table. The expectation should be that the Panthers will more intelligently manage their contracts going forward. That doesn’t mean every move will work, but there’s trust that the guy in charge of contracts and the cap knows what he’s doing.
The other parts of Tilis’ new role are more nebulous from an outside perspective. I don’t know what being responsible for “operations, equipment, video, and analytics, among other areas” means specifically. The simplest way I interpret it is that Tilis will be the nerd to complement Dan Morgan the football guy.
It’s a setup that’s becoming popular around the league. The most obvious example is the San Francisco 49ers, who have former All Pro safety John Lynch as general manager and contract/analytics guy Paraag Marathe as EVP of Football Operations. The Lions have a general manager who made the jump from Enterprise Rent a Car to NBA PR intern to NFL PR intern to scout to yadda yadda yadda to general manager. They have prominent football guy Chris Spielman in an advisory role to the ownership group.
The Panthers are hoping they’ve found the right combination to get to the level of those teams before too long. The resumes are strong and the reasoning for the hires is sound. Let’s see if it works in Carolina.