5 Carolina Panthers players with lots at stake during preseason finale

(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Ian Thomas
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Ian Thomas /
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Carolina Panthers
(Alex Hicks Jr./The Spartanburg Herald-Journal via IMAGN Content Services) Ian Thomas /

Ian Thomas – Carolina Panthers TE

It does seem strange that with Ian Thomas heading into the final year of his rookie deal, the Carolina Panthers just don’t know what they have yet regarding the tight end. He blew a huge opportunity to become Greg Olsen’s long-term successor in 2020, but the coaching staff is reluctant to give up on the former fourth-round selection entirely.

Thomas has responded well in the face of adversity and doubts surrounding his future. This received praise from Matt Rhule during the early stages of camp, with a more structured period of preparation something that’s clearly benefitting the Indiana product in terms of performance.

The acquisitions of Dan Arnold and Tommy Tremble this offseason make it even more difficult for Thomas. So it’s important he makes the most out of whatever targets come his way against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Not only this, but Thomas must also show a willingness to do the dirty work in the blocking game. One aspect of his contribution that has made improvements over the last year.

Some predict Thomas to be a roster lock despite the emergence of Colin Thompson and Giovanni Ricci. However, the Panthers would save $2 million by cutting him next week and they might decide this is a viable option if the player makes a mistake or two in the final preseason game.

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High stakes for Thomas. But nothing he isn’t abundantly aware of at this juncture.