5 Carolina Panthers players who’ll outperform their pay grade in 2021

(Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports) D.J. Moore
(Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports) D.J. Moore /
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Carolina Panthers
(Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports) Jermaine Carter /

Jermaine Carter – Carolina Panthers LB

  • 2021 cap hit – $988,344
  • 2022 free agent

This is the big chance Jermaine Carter has been waiting for. The linebacker has endured a rollercoaster ride with the Carolina Panthers since arriving as a fifth-round pick in 2018, but he looks set to occupy a starting position right out of the gate this season despite the free-agent signing of Denzel Perryman from the Los Angeles Chargers.

Carter was seeing the majority of first-team reps on the second level interior even before Perryman got hurt. His relationship with head coach Matt Rhule appears fully mended and his production once finally installed into the lineup during the previous campaign leaves plenty of reasons for optimism.

The energy Carter brought to the linebacker corps was sorely needed at the time. Luke Kuechly’s absence was a body blow to a defense that depended on him heavily, so the Maryland product needs to pick up where he left off last time around.

Providing the player makes some improvements in 2021, then the Panthers should extend him accordingly when both parties head to the negotiating table next spring. If this is accomplished by Carter, nobody will be happier than the organization in pursuit of finding Kuechly’s long-term successor.

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One thing’s for sure, if Carter keeps trending in the right direction he can expect to earn much more than his $988,344 cap hit in 2021.