5 things we learned from Week 3 of Panthers’ training camp

(Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images) Chris Manhertz
(Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images) Chris Manhertz /
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Carolina Panthers
(Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images) Ian Thomas /

Excitement surrounding Ian Thomas

Ian Thomas is a prime breakout candidate for the Carolina Panthers in 2020. The tight end looks set to fill the starting void left by prolific veteran Greg Olsen following his departure to the Seattle Seahawks in free agency. And there are high hopes for the former Indiana standout to finally fulfill his promise.

Nothing is guaranteed in the NFL. But Thomas’ production starting in Olsen’s absence as a rookie in 2018 leaves plenty of reasons to be encouraged. Much more will be needed in 2020. But Matt Rhule is confident getting more time on the field will bring out the best in him.

"“He is a really talented player, and it’s his turn to step up and play, along with Chris Manhertz. Ian’s got the ability to get down the seam and also block at the point of attack. He has all the ability to do it, he just has to go out and do it. He just needs the reps to play. “Sometimes when you’re playing part-time, you’re afraid to make a mistake. You’re afraid (and say), ‘Hey, if I don’t do something right, they’re going to pull me out.’ Sometimes you just need to know that, ‘Hey, they’re going to stick with me.’ And he’s someone we’re going to stick with. We believe in him.”"

This is the opportunity that Thomas has been waiting for. There should be plenty of space to work underneath with the presence of some outstanding offensive weapons. But what comes next will be down to the player and what sort of consistency he can produce.

Thomas is heading into the penultimate year of his rookie deal and will make a base salary of $750,000 in 2020. If he reaches or even exceeds expectations, it could see a long-term deal in the offing next spring.