Where will the Carolina Panthers-Brian Burns impasse eventually lead?

The long-running saga could soon be at an end...

Brian Burns
Brian Burns / Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Where will the current contract impasse between edge rusher Brian Burns and the Carolina Panthers eventually lead this offseason?

One of the biggest conundrums facing the Carolina Panthers this offseason centers on Brian Burns' contract. Some trust was broken between the edge rusher and the previous front-office leaders. Dan Morgan's objective is to disassociate himself from the route taken despite being Scott Fitterer's right-hand man over the last three years.

Easier said than done. Morgan can talk big about his plans to restore the Panthers to its core ethos. After so many false promises and suspect moves under those who came before him - of which he was complicit if nothing else - it's all empty words without any substance attached.

Burns can attest to this. Fitterer stated that tying the two-time Pro Bowler down long-term was one of his most pressing priorities last summer. The former first-round pick took this as a sign of good faith, remaining with his teammates as others around the NFL sat out in pursuit of a lucrative payday.

Carolina Panthers must repay Brian Burns' good faith

This faith was not reciprocated. No deal arrived before Burns cut off negotiations to focus on the regular season. He admitted to playing almost in fear, knowing that one bad injury could jeopardize his chances of getting paid. It was a solid year, but nothing compared to the upward trajectory we've come to expect.

Brian Burns has yet to receive an acceptable contract offer from the Carolina Panthers.
Brian Burns / Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The crossroads is about to hit a conclusion. Joe Person of The Athletic explored the possibilities in greater detail. While the respected beat reporter acknowledged that there's no chance of Carolina letting him hit the open market, he didn't rule out the prospect of a tag-and-trade. He also hinted that the Panthers would be willing to let him play on the franchise tag to give themselves some extra time to work out a new deal.

"Even after a down season by his standards, [Brian] Burns should land in the top 10 of league-wide free agents and draw significant interest from teams looking for a young pass rusher just hitting his prime. But it’s hard to see the Panthers letting the 25-year-old Burns hit the market, given the value of pass rushers. [Dan] Morgan was the No. 2 in the Panthers’ front office when Scott Fitterer turned down the Los Angeles Rams’ offer of two future first-round picks and a second-day pick for Burns in 2022. So while the Panthers could try to tag-and-trade Burns, it seems more like they’ll let him play on the franchise tag in 2024 if they can’t get a long-term deal done."

Joe Person, The Athletic

Players don't like turning out on the franchise tag. Given Burns' comments after the campaign about playing not to get hurt, he'll be reluctant. After doing the right thing last summer, sitting out this time around is almost guaranteed if the scenario comes to fruition.

This is a big moment for Morgan early in his general manager tenure. He needs to have conviction regardless of the decision. Having a supreme contract negotiator such as Brandt Tilis to lean on will help enormously. Burns' representatives have a number in mind. The Panthers also lost all leverage when they turned down several high-end trade offers from teams before the last two deadlines.

Hopefully, the new power structure will already have a plan in place. Burns wants to stay, although he is preparing for every eventuality. Loyalty like that is hard to find, but it's also worth remembering that the NFL is a business above all else and Carolina isn't exactly flush with spare cash right now.

It's been a long-running saga. Which way the pendulum swings once and for all could shape the future of the franchise under Morgan.