3 options the Carolina Panthers have with Shaq Thompson in 2021

(Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) Shaq Thompson
(Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) Shaq Thompson /
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Carolina Panthers
(Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports) Shaq Thompson /

What options do the Carolina Panthers have regarding outside linebacker Shaq Thompson, who is due a huge pay rise this offseason?

The Carolina Panthers have some huge decisions to make in the coming weeks. This includes coming to conclusions regarding out-of-contract players, possible free-agent signings, 2021 NFL Draft prospects, and others on the roster who also face an uncertain future with finances not what any franchise expected thanks to significant revenue losses due to COVID-19.

This is far from ideal, especially where the Panthers are currently in their substantial rebuild. Carolina made plenty of bold moves to try and get themselves back into postseason contention at the earliest possible opportunity last spring. But even though there were some encouraging signs to take from the 2020 campaign, much more will be needed with little in the way of free money to make changes.

Releasing Kawann Short has freed up around $9.82 million, according to Spotrac. The defensive tackle was set to count a whopping $20.83 million against Carolina’s salary-cap in 2021 and considering he turned out just five times over the last two years, this particular move was a no-brainer.

However, more than a few established veterans remaining on the roster will be nervously looking over their shoulders in the coming weeks.

One, in particular, is Shaq Thompson.

The outside linebacker missed the presence of Luke Kuechly more than most and was inconsistent at best throughout the campaign. Thompson is set to benefit from a bumper pay increase next season – from $4 million to $10.18 million in base salary – which one could argue his production last time out doesn’t really justify.

This is just one more big call the Panthers need to make before OTAs begin. Let’s take a look at three possible avenues Carolina could go down where Thompson is concerned.