How should the Panthers handle Shaq Thompson situation in 2023?

(Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports) Shaq Thompson
(Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports) Shaq Thompson /

How should the Carolina Panthers handle their upcoming predicament regarding outside linebacker Shaq Thompson’s status in 2023?

Although the Carolina Panthers’ primary focus right now is finding a way to make the postseason, influential figures within the organization will already be making plans for what could be another dramatic offseason for the franchise.

Steve Wilks is making a strong claim for the head coaching job beyond this season. But many on the roster face uncertain futures for different reasons before the all-important free agency period gets underway.

One player that’s sure to come under the microscope is Shaq Thompson. The outside linebacker is enjoying another underrated season manning the second level, but his status beyond the current campaign is in some doubt all things considered.

Carolina Panthers have all options available with Shaq Thompson

This has nothing to do with Thompson’s production or overall influence within the locker room. The former first-round pick is a team leader on and off the field these days, which drew praise from Mike Tomlin prior to Carolina’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 15.

If it was based on these two things alone, keeping Thompson around is a no-brainer. However, running an NFL franchise is rarely that simple.

The Panthers are in some financial turmoil before sacrifices are made. Trading Christian McCaffrey and Robbie Anderson give them flexibility beyond next year, but their combined $28.07 million dead-cap figure in 2023 restricts the possibility of making the moves needed.

Thompson is one of the team’s highest earners with a cap number of $24.46 million in the final year of his deal. This represents a whopping figure for any linebacker, so those in power have a big decision to make in the not-too-distant future.

Trading or releasing Thompson will be discussed. These scenarios come with the same financial ramifications according to Over the Cap, with a saving of $13.18 million and $11.27 million in dead money.

Not exactly ideal. But this is a situation Carolina made for itself by restructuring Thompson’s deal over the last two years – kicking the can down the road to improve other positional groups.

The chickens have now come home to roost, so to speak. Thompson could be sacrificed one way or another, but that is far from guaranteed and especially if Wilks gets the interim tag removed in the coming weeks.

A scenario could emerge where Thompson is given a new deal, which gets restructured. This keeps the Washington product on the books and gives Carolina extra wiggle room for acquisitions or tying up other key members of the team.

There’s a lot of football to go and Carolina isn’t dead just yet. Thompson is experienced enough to not let what comes next impact his performance levels, so take care of business between the white lines and everything else will fall into place.

Whether that’s with the team that drafted him in 2015 or elsewhere is the big question. But it’s hard to look at Thompson’s situation and not think that all options remain on the table.

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