Is Panthers’ Kawann Short a top-10 player at the DT position?

Kawann Short is returning to full health for the Carolina Panthers in 2020, but should he be classed as a top-10 defensive tackle?

Things should be much-improved on the Carolina Panthers’ defensive front in 2020. This is down in no small part to the return of Kawann Short, who is now back to full health after a torn rotator cuff restricted him to two games in 2019.

His presence on the line of scrimmage has been of considerable benefit to the Carolina Panthers from the moment Short stepped onto the field as a second-round back in 2013. And to say they were worse off for his absence last season would be something of an understatement.

Short has long been regarded as one of the best in the business at the top of his game. He is a space-eating presence on the interior who also has a real nous for getting after the quarterback when presented with the opportunity. Putting the veteran alongside No. 7 overall pick Derrick Brown has a tremendous amount of upside that should transform their run-stopping fortunes next season.

Pro Football Focus recently ranked the NFL’s defensive tackles ahead of the new campaign. Short ended up at No. 13 on the list largely in part to his time off the field last season. But writer Sam Monson did at least highlight the lineman’s outstanding consistency in recent years.

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“We saw just two games from Short in 2019 before he was lost to injury, and he now has age working against him (31 and counting), but his resume has too much excellent play on it to assume we won’t see a very good player again in 2020. He has never earned an overall PFF grade lower than 76.5 in a full season, and that mark came in his rookie year. Over the four seasons before last year’s curtailed campaign, he earned a grade of at least 83.7 every year and averaged north of 50 total pressures. There have been few more consistently impressive players in all areas of the game than Short has been since he entered the league back in 2013.”

What comes next for Kawann Short and the Carolina Panthers?

There appears little doubt that Short is a top-ten defensive tackle when healthy. This might seem like something of a slight on his production. But the NFL is a what have you done for me lately league that he simply was not a part of in 2019.

If the player gets back to anything like his best next season, then the Panthers are going to be something of a predicament. Short is comfortably the team’s highest earner in 2020. And his cap hit is an astronomical $20.83 million on the final year of his deal in 2021.

Given that every NFL team is facing a decrease in their cap due to a lack of revenue next season as COVID-19 concerns continue to impact the landscape. It does not appear likely that he will be kept around at this sort of price.

Both parties agreeing to a restructure is not entirely out of the question. However, Carolina moved on from plenty of veteran players this offseason in their bid to go younger. And releasing Short would save them around $9.82 million that they might feel could be better spent elsewhere.

The Panthers are going to get one more season out of Short, at the very least. A strong campaign from the player would not only make Carolina think twice about letting him go. But it should also make him an extremely hot commodity on the free-agent market if the defensive lineman and the organization went their separate ways.