Forward To The Future 2018: Defensive End


Charles Johnson

The 30 year old defensive end enters to the 2017 season after receiving a 2 year extension with the Panthers running through 2018.

While Johnson’s production has started slipping over the last few years, he has proved a valuable asset in the defensive end rotation as a leader on the defensive line.

Despite battling injuries over those seasons, Johnson was a key contributor during the Panthers 2015 Super Bowl run. Accounting for 3 sacks, 7 tackles, and 2 assisted tackles during that run.

Johnson also went on to help recruit returning players like Julius Peppers, and Captain Munnerlyn back to Carolina in 2017.

While the defensive line is stacked with older veteran talent in 2017, the Panthers may want to start to look to get younger at the position.

Johnson will account for $3.5 million against the cap in 2018. If the Panthers decided they wanted to get younger at defensive end through the Draft, or Free Agency, they could look to Johnson to free up that $3.5 million to help in Free Agency, and getting other players re-signed.

With no dead money on Johnson’s last year of his contract, Gettleman will need to decide if Johnson will be one of the contract’s they look towards to free up cap space for those re-signing’s. Keeping Johnson may however be key to retaining Peppers for another year as well.

While he may not post the numbers he used to Johnson would be a key veteran leader along with Peppers in developing any young defensive end talents the Panthers bring in like 2017 draft pick Daeshon Hall for the future.

I can’t see Gettleman wanting a group of defensive end’s devoid of any veteran leadership in 2018, or having to spend more than he has to for rotational players. As long as Johnson is productive in 2017 then that $3.5 million is a pretty fair price for a veteran rotational defensive end.

Regardless of what happens with Johnson or Peppers, the Panthers will probably look to at least add one new young piece to the puzzle through Free Agency or the Draft at this position in 2018 despite drafting Hall in 2017.

Julius Peppers

The 37 year old future Hall Of Fame defensive end returns to Carolina for the 2017 season on a one year deal. After being recruited by former teammates Charles Johnson, and Thomas Davis to return to chase a ring from where it all began.

Peppers returns to Carolina continuing to play like he has been drinking the fountain of youth for most of his career. Averaging about 7.0 sacks a season for the last 4 seasons.

While from the outside the return of Peppers would appear to be a final farewell. It’s anything but that according to Peppers in an interview with Scott Fowler of the Charlotte Observer.

▪ On whether he might play beyond the 2017 season: “Well, right now, I’m taking it one year at a time. At the end of the year if I still feel good, than why not?”

After the 2017 season if Peppers is still productive, and wants to play, the Panthers will have some decisions to make. On whether or not to re-sign the Hall Of Famer for one or two more seasons to ensure he ends his career in Carolina or not.

One of the problems the Panthers could face in re-signing Peppers could be contract demands. Peppers has always came at a pretty hefty price no matter where he has went with the exception of his 2017 return to Carolina.

If Peppers is as productive as he has been in the past 4 seasons then he could look for one last payday. If the Panthers approach Peppers about another season or two it could come at a bigger price tag than his $3.5 million sack incentive contract he has in 2017.

On top of that his return could hinge on the return of players like Charles Johnson, and Thomas Davis.

While I would love to see Peppers finish his final seasons in Carolina, if his contract demands raise for his final years it will be hard for the Panthers to accommodate him for much more than they did in 2017.

Unless they risk the re-signing of other younger players. If the Panthers move on from Charles Johnson in an attempt to re-sign Peppers then this could also risk losing the defensive end or even a change in coaching staff’s. Since Johnson was part of the reason for Peppers return.

Gettleman will have some big decisions to make with these two veteran defensive ends, and the direction for the defensive end group in 2018. Especially if Peppers produces like he has been the last few seasons.




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