5 Carolina Panthers players entering 2021 on a short leash

(Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports) Justin Burris
(Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports) Justin Burris /
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Carolina Panthers
(Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports) Pat Elflein /

Pat Elflein – Carolina Panthers OG

Making Pat Elfein one of their top priorities once free agency began was a really strange move by the Carolina Panthers. The versatile offensive lineman might be able to play anywhere on the interior, but his production hasn’t been exactly stellar since entering the league out of Ohio State.

The Minnesota Vikings finally gave up on Elflein last year. He was picked up off waivers by the New York Jets but failed to earn an extended stay with the organization after the same frailties emerged for a team that had the No. 1 pick locked up until two late wins.

This appears to be Elflein’s final chance to prove he is a capable starter. Failure in Carolina would almost certainly see the former third-round pick forced into a backup role or even out of the NFL entirely as a result.

Carolina would save $6.65 million in cap space by releasing Elflein after June 1 next year. This will be in the back of their minds if the player doesn’t turn things around, although it would be a surprise if he wasn’t the Day 1 starter at left guard judging by how heavily involved he’s been at training camp.

Elflein has more at stake than most heading into the season. But the bar isn’t exactly high considering how poor Carolina’s interior protection was last season.