How much can the Carolina Panthers afford to pay Brian Burns?

Tying down the star edge rusher is among the team's biggest priorities.

Brian Burns
Brian Burns / Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

How much can the Carolina Panthers afford to pay star edge rusher Brian Burns, who is out of contract and looking for a mammoth deal?

There is a new power structure in place as the Carolina Panthers look to make the moves needed for future prosperity. They need to find the right acquisitions in free agency and the draft. They must also rebuild relationships with current players that might have soured under the previous regime.

Brian Burns' future should be right at the top of their list. The star edge rusher became disillusioned last season after contract talks stalled. This was frustrating when one considered how professional he remained throughout the summer while others around the league sat out and got their lucrative deals.

Burns admitted to playing with hesitancy. He knew one bad injury could jeopardize his chances of being paid. That might not have sat well with some sections of the fanbase, but it's a situation the Panthers brought on themselves. Something that has to change at the earliest possible opportunity.

Dan Morgan knows the importance of keeping good players around. The Panthers also secured the services of Brandt Tilis, who was instrumental in the Kansas City Chiefs' supreme salary-cap management en route to their current dynasty.

Carolina Panthers must make things right with Brian Burns

All this points to a better decision-making process in the front office. If team owner David Tepper also stays out of the way, the better Carolina's chances will be. Whether the erratic billionaire goes through on his promise is another matter.

Carolina Panthers edge rusher Brian Burns wants to stay, but the money must be right.
Brian Burns / Morgan Tencza-USA TODAY Sports

Burns and his representatives have a number in mind. Reports of demanding around $30 million per season seem about right. He's one of the league's most explosive pass-rushers. He's been to two Pro Bowls and accumulated 46 sacks in five seasons. He's only just entering his prime with some outstanding years ahead. There would be a queue of suitors if the Panthers inexplicably let him walk for nothing.

But how much can the Panthers afford to pay Burns?

According to Spotrac, the Panthers have $31.02 million in available salary-cap space with 58 players under contract. This will likely increase once contract restructures and early releases become official. But there are some significant holes to fill with the resources available and others to also extend aside from Burns.

None are more important - not even Frankie Luvu. But the leverage was lost when the Panthers turned down multiple trade offers for the former first-round pick. Now, it's time to pay.

Spotrac projects Burns' market value to be $21.74 million per season on a five-year, $108.74 million deal. This seems fair - even though it's a huge chunk of change. His representatives might want more considering the recent contracts given out league-wide.

Burns isn't on the same level as T.J. Watt, Myles Garrett, or Nick Bosa. One could argue he's fallen behind Maxx Crosby looking at how both players fared last season. The two sides could have different views on the money side of things when the time comes to resume negotiations. That's why many think the franchise tag will be the eventual path.

This year's franchise tag for defensive ends is $23.38 million. Whichever way the Panthers go with this - unless they opt for a tag and trade - Burns is going to get paid handsomely for his services. And at the end of the day, high-quality pass-rushers don't grow on trees.

Carolina has gotten into the habit of letting good players leave. It's time for that mindset to alter drastically.