Where will upcoming crossroads leave Brian Burns and the Carolina Panthers?

Brian Burns
Brian Burns / Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Where will their pending crossroads eventually lead the Carolina Panthers and stud edge rusher Brian Burns once the 2023 regular season concludes?

They've turned down multiple trade offers - some with unbelievable value attached. Yet the Carolina Panthers refused to reward Brian Burns with a lengthy contract extension. One of the many frustrating elements from arguably the worst season in franchise history.

Burns is frustrated. He wanted a new deal before the season and showed good faith in the front office to do the right thing. Unfortunately for the player, this was misplaced.

Carolina Panthers cannot lose Brian Burns for nothing

All signs point to Burns getting the franchise tag to prevent him from leaving in free agency. This was a sentiment echoed by Brad Spielberger from Pro Football Focus, who placed the former first-round pick at No. 5 in his list of 2024 free agents league-wide.

"[Brian] Burns cannot seem to escape Carolina as the team turns down trade offers and consistently loses football games, but he’s had a strong second half of the 2023 season. He is on his way to his fourth straight pass-rush grade above 70.0, keeping his stock high amid the chaos."

Brad Spielberger, PFF

Placing the franchise tag on Burns is the only viable course of action. Whether it's general manager Scott Fitterer or someone else, letting their best pass-rusher leave for nothing in free agency is out of the question.

There is growing reluctance when it comes to players turning out on the tag. They are rightfully wary of jeopardizing their hopes of longer-term financial security. But the Panthers are blatantly refusing to pay Burns the $25-30 million per year he's reportedly looking for.

If the two sides cannot reach some common ground when negotiations resume, the potential for a tag-and-trade becomes realistic. The Panthers don't have a first-round pick in 2024. Burns would probably welcome a fresh start on a team with better chances of contending.

Seems like a win-win. Even if it removes yet another prolific performer entering their prime from the team.

Trading Burns should be a last resort. He's an integral part of Carolina's plans. The Panthers have already made that abundantly clear by refusing previous advances. These included a whopping offer from the Los Angeles Rams that included two first-round selections and a Day 2 pick thrown in for good measure.

This isn't hard. Get the deal done. Build around Burns. Keep a promising defense intact. Use the remaining funds to provide rookie quarterback Bryce Young with everything he needs to improve in Year 2 of his professional career.

One could forgive Burns for having a complete lack of confidence in the football operation right now. They are constantly losing. They've traded away almost every valuable piece. They've allowed prolific performers such as Stephon Gilmore and Hasson Reddick to walk in free agency. They haven't rewarded him for prolonged production and growth since entering the league out of Florida State.

We wait with bated breath for what comes next. The Panthers have mismanaged this situation with Burns terribly up to now. There might even be some bad blood from the player's side after others who sat out during camp got paid handsomely.

Doing the right thing doesn't always bear fruit. Certainly when it comes to NFL teams handing out big-money deals.

For fans, they'll be hoping things can resolve satisfactorily for all parties involved. But there promises to be plenty of staffing turnover before that as team owner David Tepper gets set for more big changes.

An important situation worth monitoring until further notice. One that has big ramifications for Caroina's short and long-term future.