Forward To The Future 2018: Linebacker


Thomas Davis Sr.

The 34 year old linebacker for the Panthers is in the final year of his contract in 2017 but has stated this off-season that he does indeed hope to continue his career with the Panthers. When he joined Garcia and Bailey on WFNZ in May he stated he is hoping for a contract extension and he thinks he could play at least two more seasons. (At the 7:00 mark).


While this is great news for Panthers fans and the team that the living legend would want to continue chasing that ring for a couple more seasons. There are things to consider. Mainly the cap and production.

While I am well aware Thomas Davis is the most inspiring Panther since the late great Sam Mills put on the pads. In truth it’s crazy how many similarities there are between Davis and Mills.

However there were slight signs during last season that father time might be starting to catch up to this Panthers great. While those moments may partly be attributed to the poor secondary and defensive line play early in the season.

It could also be playing a part as to why the Panthers will be looking to give Shaq Thompson an increased role this upcoming season. Among other reasons, like Shaq’s performances when he was on the field. Much like Julius Peppers they will be looking to give Davis more time to heal and rest by reducing his reps. All for his benefit.

Despite that the only real major factor playing into having Davis return will be cap hit for the contract he wants. Thomas Davis currently counts for $8,250,000 million against the cap in 2017. I don’t believe the Panthers can go that high again if he wants to return past 2017.

If the Panthers want to look to extend Davis then he might have to come at a smaller more team friendly rate for his final two years against the cap. If not his return could risk losing other younger talent on the roster in the coming seasons mattering on the year to year cap hit.

As I stated in the last piece from the Running Backs. As of now the Panthers are looking to be going in at a rough estimate of around $24 million in the 2018 off-season (before any new cuts or moves are made to free up more room at this time of release).

Not only is Davis on the docket for an extension but the likes of Trai Turner who has already been in the news reportedly in talks for an extension, Andrew Norwell, and others who I will get to in my next few pieces.

If they can come to terms that won’t hamstring the Panthers from using their 5th year option on his eventual successor and fellow linebacker Shaq Thompson and not hold the Panthers back from keeping the pieces they need for the future. I am all for another two more seasons of Thomas Davis.

I believe this will get done at some point, but I suspect starting in 2017 you will see Thomas Davis eventually start to fade into a more Julius Peppers rotational role instead of the starter at linebacker we all know. While Shaq’s reps increase in his place as the new starter.

Gettleman will have to weigh the issue of how much money Davis wants for the next two seasons vs how much he needs to lock other talent down. This to me is a no brainer though and would be the perfect scenario for the Panthers if it gets done at the right price by or before 2018.

You get Thomas Davis back for two more seasons through 2019. While they use the 5th year option on Shaq to extend his contract for two more seasons putting off his extension until the 2020 season. Then when it’s time for Shaq’s first big deal in 2020 Davis can pass the torch and move onto his place among Panthers greats.

Shaq Thompson

The 23 year old linebacker is heading into his 3rd season in the NFL and has shown improvement every season since being taken in the 1st round in 2015. Thompson appears to be on track to be the player he was drafted to be. The eventual successor to Thomas Davis.

While there is no looming contract for Thompson in 2018 and he is still under contract through the 2018 season which includes a 5th year option for the 2019 season. The reason he is in this conversation is because of the reason’s I spoke about with Thomas Davis and TD’s looming extension.

After an interview with reporter Bill Voth, new Defensive Coordinator Steve Wilks revealed that they were looking to increase Shaq’s role and decrease reps for Davis which you can find below.

“With Thomas Davis getting up there in age and years, we’ve got to cut down on his reps,” Steve Wilks said Monday. “So there will be times where Shaq is going to be in, and we’re going to try to relieve Thomas to give him some rest.”

“We’ve got to create more packages for him, which we’ve talked about,” Wilks said.

The biggest decision Gettleman will have to make in 2018 in regards to Shaq Thompson will be if he is going to use the 5th year option on Thompson or not.

Again I believe this is another no brainer that they use the 5th year option on Shaq in 2018 while at the same time extending Davis. Thus extending Davis’s career and setting Shaq up for his payday once Davis’s contract runs its course.


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