Has Carolina Panthers' relationship with Brian Burns become unrepairable?

Things are heating up ahead of his expected franchise tag...

Brian Burns
Brian Burns / Morgan Tencza-USA TODAY Sports

Has the fractured relationship between the Carolina Panthers and star edge rusher Brian Burns become unrepairable?

It's no secret that the previous regime handled Brian Burns' contract extension abysmally. This was in keeping with their incompetent roster management and something the Carolina Panthers will be rebuilding for a long while yet. The questionable moves and poor management of star players became synonymous with the franchise, which new general manager Dan Morgan wants to improve as a matter of urgency.

Burns has yet to get the long-term deal his increasing influence deserves. He's one of the league's brightest young pass-rushers and has barely entered his prime at 25 years old. But the latest revelation from Josina Anderson of CBS Sports surrounding Carolina's decision to call off talks only raises further speculation about the player's future.

Carolina Panthers preparing for every eventuality with Brian Burns

Morgan was quick to point out during the NFL Scouting Combine that all options are on the table where Burns is concerned. According to Joe Person of The Athletic, those around the league believe this starts by slapping the franchise tag on him before this week's deadline. After that, it could be about rebuilding the relationship between the former first-round pick and the franchise.

"In speaking with agents, officials with other teams and other league sources at the combine, the sense is the Panthers will use the franchise tag on Burns before Tuesday’s 4 p.m. ET deadline for doing so. That’s neither new nor surprising. Applying the tag to Burns — at a cost of $24 million for linebackers — gives [Dan] Morgan and executive vice president of football operations Brandt Tilis a chance to try to rekindle the negotiations that stalled in September under the previous regime. Morgan, as Scott Fitterer’s assistant GM, was part of those contract talks that had Burns looking for a deal worth around $30 million annually."

Joe Person, The Athletic

Sounds good, in theory. Whether this once fruitful relationship has gone past the point of no return is the big question.

Burns can feel aggrieved by the treatment he's received by the Panthers. He stayed loyal and professional throughout training camp as others in similar positions around the league sat out and got paid. Those in power took advantage of his good intentions despite having no leverage whatsoever, resulting in the edge rusher playing with an added sense of hesitancy for fear of getting hurt.

The franchise tag prevents Burns from speaking to other teams unless it's given a non-exclusive designation. Carolina could also begin seeking compensation via a tag-and-trade, although this won't be anything like what the Panthers have already turned down for the Florida State product before the last two deadlines.

This was a topic discussed further by Person, who claimed Burns' representatives know how much Carolina lacks from a pass-rushing standpoint and are attempting to use this to their advantage. Couple this with the two first-rounders and more they didn't accept from the Los Angeles Rams in 2022, and it's not hard to see why he's holding firm with his demands.

"[Brian] Burns held the upper hand leverage-wise last summer because he knew how much he was worth to the Panthers — i.e., the two first-round picks and one second-round pick Fitterer turned down from the Los Angeles Rams for Burns at the 2022 trade deadline. Burns’ side would seem to be negotiating from a position of strength again this year because of the Panthers’ situation at edge rusher behind Burns. The team’s next two experienced edge guys — Marquis Haynes and Yetur Gross-Matos — are free agents, and third-round pick DJ Johnson failed to record a sack as a rookie."

Joe Person, The Athletic

If the Panthers don't want to pay Burns the going rate, someone else will. A better situation could also take his game to heights not seen before. Something fans have been forced to endure with other established figures who left when there was plenty still left in their respective tanks.

Burns and his family have a close connection to the organization that dates back to when his brother Stanley McClover played for the upstart Panthers. But at the end of the day, this is business.