4 Carolina Panthers players who outperformed their pay grade in 2023

The Carolina Panthers did get some bang for their buck.

Chuba Hubbard
Chuba Hubbard / Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
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Chuba Hubbard - Carolina Panthers RB

  • 2023 salary: $1.1 million

When the Carolina Panthers signed Miles Sanders in free agency, Chuba Hubbard was once again relegated to a backup despite catching the eye after those in power traded Christian McCaffrey to the San Francisco 49ers. The new arrival laid out his intentions to become a genuine three-down backfield presence. Something that would have turned the former fourth-round selection out of Oklahoma State into an innocent bystander.

Sanders couldn't meet the lofty goals he set for himself. There was a lack of vision and explosiveness. His confidence waned. After a series of disappointing efforts and injury problems, the Panthers elevated Hubbard to the starting lineup.

Their fortunes on the ground immediately improved. Hubbard was aggressive and exploded into gaps with supreme physicality. There were notable improvements in key areas such as pass blocking, contact balance, and catching out of the backfield. Even when Sanders was medically cleared to resume playing activities, the roles stayed the same.

Hubbard counted just $1.1 million against Carolina's salary cap in 2023. This was tremendously cheap when one considers the running back gained 1,135 all-purpose yards and five combined touchdowns.

A new regime brings uncertainty. But looking at the way Hubbard applied himself this season, it would be a big surprise if there wasn't a big role for him to play in the final year of his deal next time around.