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
(Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports) Shaq Thompson /

Shaq Thompson – Carolina Panthers OLB

There doesn’t appear much chance in Shaq Thompson being benched at any stage in 2021. Things would have to go drastically wrong for the outside linebacker for this to happen.

However, the former first-round pick has a lot of work to do in pursuit of convincing the coaching staff he is worthy of the substantial pay increase coming his way next year.

Thompson restructured his contract this offseason to free up some additional funds. The Carolina Panthers are now facing a big decision regarding the player next spring.

His cap number will skyrocket from just over $8 million this year to a whopping $18.26 million in 2022. Releasing the Washington product ahead of time would save the Panthers $12.47 million and comes with $5.47 million in dead money.

The veteran didn’t manage to become the defensive lynchpin in Luke Kuechly’s immediate absence last season. Even though it was a target he set for himself before the campaign.

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How he bounces back in the coming months will ultimately decide his future in Carolina. But considering the saving involved, Thompson needs to perform at a Pro Bowl level for the Panthers to contemplate keeping him on the books at such an expense.