Carolina Panthers: Thomas Davis suspension opened exit door
After 14 seasons, Thomas Davis will not return to the Carolina Panthers next year.
Right or wrong and no matter on which side of the fence you land, there’s no denying the impact Thomas Davis made in a Carolina Panthers uniform. Since being selected in the first-round (No. 14 overall) of the 2005 NFL Draft, Davis has done nothing other than give his all for the black and blue.
For fourteen years Davis anchored the Panthers defense from his linebacker position. Even before the emergence of Luke Kuechly alongside him, Davis was already a household name. He became the first athlete to return from three different ACL injuries and like a fine wine, improved his performance with age.
Prior to the 2018 season, Davis announced he had plans for retirement but a surprising suspension altered his outlook. After years of football and being awarded the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, recognizing his efforts, character and contributions on and off the field, Davis violated the league policy on performance-enhancing substances.
A failed drug test indicated the Panthers captain had ingested a supplement banned by the league and he would have to sit out for four games. During the suspension Davis couldn’t enter the team facility or communicate with his teammates in regards to game preparation or performance. For both sides it was a taste of what life would be like without the Panthers superstar.
For Davis, it appears to have sparked another flame inside – leading him to believe he has plenty of football left. However, for Carolina the performances of Kuechly, Shaq Thompson and the defense during his absence opened the door for life without the 14-year veteran.
David Mayo, who started for Davis while suspended, is also a free agent but may return on a much cheaper contract than his mentor. It is a bit surprising that general manager Marty Hurney didn’t offer Davis the option of playing a reduced role for less pay or Davis may not have been willing to accept such terms. We may never know but there’s no denying Mayo comes at less of a cost.
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The potential displayed by rookie Jermaine Carter in limited action also has to have coach Ron Rivera and Hurney excited about the future of the position. Carter recorded his first tackle in the final game of Davis’ suspension and finished the season with five against divisional rival New Orleans.
Had Davis not been forced to miss any time in 2018, the team would have had little opportunity to evaluate their younger options in regular season play. The suspension gave them four full games, three wins, and now the front office has decided to move on from a legendary player.
Davis should be given an opportunity elsewhere and regardless of where he lands fans should be appreciative of the time he had in Carolina.
All while looking forward for an opportunity to match up against one of the best this game has ever had to offer should his new team clash with the Panthers next season.