3 major Carolina Panthers storylines ahead of Week 1 at the Falcons

There's never a dull moment where the Carolina Panthers are concerned.

Brian Burns
Brian Burns / Jared C. Tilton/GettyImages
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Carolina Panthers hesitancy with Brian Burns

It’s not often that I would begin a piece focusing on the major storylines of the Carolina Panthers and not immediately cast the spotlight on Bryce Young. However, thanks to the head-scratching hesitancy of general manager Scott Fitterer and owner David Tepper, here we are.

The pass-rushing unit for Ejiro Evero’s defense already stomached a blow this week, with the announcement of sixth-year outside linebacker Marquis Haynes Sr. landing on injured/reserve for at least the first four weeks of the season after he suffered a setback to the back injury that caused him to miss the entire preseason.

Haynes was seemingly in line to serve as the first man off the bench behind starters Justin Houston and Brian Burns. That brings me to the next concern, which also easily happens to be the larger one.

As of writing this article, Burns hasn’t signed a contract extension and head coach Frank Reich has been unable to confirm whether that would result in the star pass rusher being inactive for Week 1. If he doesn’t take the field, this Panthers' defense instantly becomes far less dangerous.

The former Florida State Seminole is one of the overall best players on the entire team, and absolutely among the most valuable. Burns amassed 12.5 sacks last season and has been garnering rave reviews for his offseason dedication and outlook for the 2023 campaign.

Most recent reporting has detailed that the contract negotiations are “not at all close” between Burns and the Panthers front office. The star edge presence did take the practice field on Wednesday and was designated a full participant, for what it’s worth.

A major benefit of having a quarterback on a rookie contract, not to mention the hopeful franchise left tackle also in that same boat, is having the ability to pay elite players at premier positions to build a championship roster around these bargain financials. This situation looks to qualify as such, in my opinion.

The Los Angeles Rams reportedly offered a 2023 second-round pick, a 2024 first-round pick, and their 2025 first-rounder for Burns around the trade deadline last season. The Panthers declined that offer, and it was at that exact moment, that his value was set to skyrocket if the organization didn’t move swiftly. They did not.

Having lost any worthwhile leverage in the negotiations while perfecting their thumb twiddling, the thinking has been that Burns and the Panthers have been awaiting an extension of Nick Bosa from the San Francisco 49ers first.

That sound you just heard? That was the other shoe-dropping.

Bosa inked a market-resetting five-year $170 million extension, including $122 million guaranteed. Had the Panthers organization been proactive and aggressive, they possibly could’ve saved themselves quite the slice of quiche. Now, I’m of the opinion it will cost them a minimum of around $28 million annually to get pen to paper.

Burns may very well take the field in Week 1 even without a new deal, as he’s shown to be laser-focused on helping this team succeed. It would just go a long way for the players on this team to see this ownership and front office taking care of their own.

The Atlanta Falcons offense figures to operate within a run-heavy approach, based on head coach Arthur Smith’s proclivity to do so last year and the addition of rookie phenom Bijan Robinson. However, they still will have to throw the football enough to keep the defense honest.

With Desmond Ridder being the answer to the infamous ‘show me the quarterback who threw that ball’ question, Carolina would benefit greatly from having big No. 0 out there making life for the second-year quarterback even more uncomfortable than he is apparently capable of doing himself.