With exactly a week before the start of free agency, every NFL is racing to free up as much salary cap space as possible. Among those teams are the Carolina Panthers, who entered Wednesday with about $18.4 million in cap space. The Panthers will have even more cap space after running back Christian McCaffrey and linebacker Shaq Thompson agreed to restructure their contracts. Panthers coach Matt Rhule informed the media of his players' restructures on Wednesday afternoon.
More than $7 million of McCaffrey's $8 million base salary will be converted to a signing bonus, according to NFL Network's Mike Garafolo. McCaffrey's restructure will save the Panthers $5.64 million against the cap.
Earlier in the day, the NFL announced that the 2021 salary cap will be set at $182.5 million. While it's not as high as it would have been pre-pandemic, the cap is higher than the initial projection of $175 million. Every team must be in compliance with the salary cap by the time the new league year begins at 4 p.m. ET on March 17.
Last April, McCaffrey signed a four-year, $64 million contract with the Panthers that included a $21.5 million signing bonus, $38.16 guaranteed and an annual salary of over $16 million per season. An All-Pro in 2019, McCaffrey is looking to bounce back after injuries limited him to just three games last season. With McCaffrey on the mend, the Panthers won just two of their final 11 games to finish with a 5-11 record.
Thompson signed a four-year, $54.2 million extension with the Panthers in December 2019. During his first six seasons in Carolina, the former first-round pick has tallied 470 tackles, 9.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries. Last season, Thompson set career highs with 114 tackles and two forced fumbles.
Linebacker, EDGE rusher and tight end are among the positions the Panthers will look to strengthen this offseason. In his most recent mock draft, CBS Sports NFL draft analyst Josh Edwards has the Panthers selecting former Florida tight end Kyle Pitts with the eighth overall pick.