Just a year afteron Josh Norman before the two sides could strike a deal, the Carolina Panthers are veering in the opposite direction with defensive tackle Kawann Short, signing the disruptive defensive lineman to a long-term contract the team announced on Monday.
According to a report from Adam Schefter of ESPN, the deal is worth $80 million over five years.
"KK has been very important to what we've been able to accomplish on defense," Panthers GM Dave Gettleman said in a statement released by the team. "In 2013, when we drafted KK, I thought he was the best pass-rushing defensive tackle in the Draft, and he's been able to develop into one of the top young defensive tackles in the NFL. Off the field, KK is a top-notch young man and great representative of our team. I'm absolutely thrilled that we were able to get this deal done."
Short, who was taken with a second-round pick by the Panthers in the 2013 NFL Draft, has produced 22 sacks from the defensive tackle position in his first four years. He led the Panthers in sacks in 2015 with 11.
He has also registered nine passes defensed, six forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries over his four seasons. Pro Football Focus also gives Short credit for 132 quarterback hurries and 40 quarterback hits over the first four years of his career.
"KK consistently affects the quarterback and is strong against the run," Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. "The mismatches he creates for us on defense force opponents to be aware of him at all times and give us an edge along the defensive line. He's a great player, but also a quality young man who has the respect of his teammates in the locker room. He's everything we're looking for in a Panther."
Short was slated to make $13.1 million this season on a one-year, fully-guaranteed contract after.
There was some chance he might have held out given the issues Carolina's faced with franchise tags in the past. The franchise's, letting him walk to the Redskins on a new free agency deal, was a weird thing. And it likely affected the players on the roster.
Now Short will be getting paid early. According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, Short's deal will pay him $40 million in the first two years of the contract. It will also average $16 million per season over the full five years.
That makes Short a top five defensive tackle in terms of average value per year on his contract, behind only Ndamukong Suh ($19.1 million), Fletcher Cox ($17.1 million) and Marcell Dareus ($16.1 million) according to Spotrac.
Short is the seventh player in Panthers history to receive the franchise tag, joining punter Todd Sauerbrun (2003), tackle Jordan Gross (2008), defensive end Julius Peppers (2009), center Ryan Kalil (2011), defensive end Greg Hardy (2014) and Norman last year.
Only Gross and Kalil received long-term deals with Carolina previously. The latter is still on the roster. Peppers, oddly enough, is now back on the roster after contract dispute surrounding the franchise tag resulted in his departure.
Locking in Short long-term and ensuring he'll be ready to play in 2017 gives the Panthers a pretty stout defense heading into the coming year, which Carolina expects should be a bounceback year after a disappointing 2016.