4 Carolina Panthers players that could follow Steve Wilks to the 49ers

(Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports) Steve Wilks
(Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports) Steve Wilks /
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Carolina Panthers
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Shaq Thompson /

Shaq Thompson – Carolina Panthers LB

Of all the players who laid their support behind Steve Wilks last season, Shaq Thompson was arguably the most vocal. The veteran held plenty of weight within the locker room and did whatever he could to get everyone on board in the wake of Matt Rhule’s firing, publicly stating on numerous occasions that David Tepper should remove the interim tag when the time came.

This wasn’t enough for Tepper, clearly. Few would deny Frank Reich wasn’t a worthy candidate, but many including Thompson were of the belief that Wilks deserved a chance to build on his fine early work in a prominent leadership role.

Thompson was conspicuous by his absence from Reich’s introductory press conference, which fueled speculation about his unhappiness. However, the one-time Washington standout stated he was dealing with a family issue and was supportive of the move.

Whether this is true or not is moot. Thompson has to play the hand he’s dealt and based on his enormous salary-cap hit in 2023, the linebacker might not be around during the final year of Reich’s reign in any case.

Releasing or trading Thompson comes with cap savings of $13.16 million. Finding a trade partner would be difficult in the circumstances, so cutting him loose entirely is an option for the cash-strapped Carolina Panthers to contemplate.

If this scenario becomes reality, Wilks might bang the table hard for Thompson to join the San Francisco 49ers. Something that would further strengthen a linebacking corps that consists of All-Pro Fred Warner and other capable playmakers.