“Nobody ever said that winning was cheap.”
So said Tom Cruise as sports agent Jerry Maguire (1996) as he attempted to drive up the price for one of his clients. That principle applies pretty well to the salary cap era in the NFL. Teams have to invest their resources wisely, but getting stingy usually winds up in disaster once the games begin. Nowhere does an imbalanced roster or imperfect team-building plan become more apparent than in the trenches.
Heading into the 2021 season, the Carolina Panthers have a Jekyll and Hyde act going on at the line of scrimmage. While their defensive line looks to be their toughest unit on paper, the other side could be in for rough times.
Carolina’s current offensive line is being ranked at or near the bottom of most sites’ lists for all 32 units across the league. It’s not difficult to see why. Aside from Taylor Moton at right tackle, there’s no other above-average starters up front. That means three or four OL positions could wind up being a liability during the season, which is far from ideal for a team starting a quarterback in Sam Darnold who may be the NFL’s worst passer outside the packet.
Throwing money at the problem might not solve it, but it’s difficult to see how it would hurt at this juncture.
According to Spotrac, the Panthers are spending $33,442,862 on their offensive line this year. That puts them at No. 17 in the NFL, snugly fit between the Patriots and the Lions right in the middle of the pack.
Taylor Moton’s franchise tag ($13,754,000) accounts for the biggest piece of the pie, followed by the last year of center Matt Paradis’ contract ($5,636,666). After those two, there’s a huge dropoff to the next-most expensive offensive linemen. Cameron Erving has a cap hit of $3,490,000, Greg Little will cost $2,083,343 and Trent Scott comes in at $1,650,000. (Salary numbers are via Over the Cap).
Offensive line coach Pat Meyer could try to be creative. Perhaps trying Brady Christensen at right tackle and sliding Moton over to the blindside is worth considering. Inside, giving younger options like Dennis Daley and Deonte Brown a chance in case guys like Pat Elflein and John Miller bust might also help. Meyer only has so many pieces to work with, though. It would be difficult for any OL coach to find a solution that works with the roster where it stands right now.