Which Carolina Panthers players simply have to rebound in 2021 to stand any chance of a long-term future on the team?
Heads coach Matt Rhule got a free pass in terms of eventual record during the 2020 season, which was his first at the helm of the Carolina Panthers. Owner David Tepper committed a significant amount of resources to prize the respected figure from Baylor to the tune of seven years and $60 million. So there was nothing wrong with a slight bedding-in period in year one of such a substantial rebuild.
However, not that the billionaire has his guys in position, it won’t be much longer before Tepper will want to see some return on his investment. There are some ambitious plans being devised behind the scenes – including the exceptional project for a new headquarters in Rock Hill – so the Panthers need to have a winning football team on the field by the time these come to fruition.
There promises to be plenty of player turnover in the coming weeks during free agency and the 2021 NFL Draft. The roster is going to look far different once again by the time OTAs roll around and the upcoming decisions made by Rhule and new general manager Scott Fitterer will shape the future of the franchise in no uncertain terms.
Some who are currently on the roster will be nervously looking over their shoulders if things don’t improve next time around. Rhule has already shown a ruthless demeanor when it comes to parting ways with underperforming players, which should have everyone sitting up and increasing urgency in the process.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at four Carolina players who must rebound in 2021. Otherwise, they’ll be shown the door pretty quickly.
Player No. 1
Shaq Thompson – Carolina Panthers OLB
There is a chance that Shaq Thompson might not even be on the roster by the time competitive action begins in 2021. But if Carolina gives the former first-round pick a reprieve then it has to come with an increase in production.
Thompson was extremely vocal about his desire to fill the leadership void left by Luke Kuechly following his shock retirement. However, he looked like a lost puppy without the perennial All-Pro alongside him, and considering the big pay rise coming his way next season, his poor performances came at the worst possible time.
Moving Thompson’s contract is going to be difficult in the current climate, so all signs point to the Washington product sticking around for one more campaign, at least. What comes next is up to him, but he clearly needs a high-quality individual on the interior if last season’s efforts were any indication.