The Panthers have until Thursday afternoon to submit tender offers for their 11 restricted free agents, and have been very deliberate with them. Some of the agents think they know what they’re getting, but none have been given official word just yet.
The Panthers are proceeding carefully, in part, because some of the decisions aren’t the no-brainers they seem to be.
LB Thomas Davis should get the highest tender possible ($3.268 million), which would bring back a first- and third-round picks in compensation. QB Matt Moore should get at least the first-round tender ($2.396 million), if not the first-and-third ($3.043 million), as they’ll want to keep him and make sure they’re properly compensated if another team’s in love with him.
But other decisions are more complicated, and driven by scarcity at certain positions.
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One such case is DT Louis Leonard, who was acquired in a trade with Cleveland last summer and looked good in his brief time playing (two games), before a broken leg in Atlanta ended his season.
The 25-year-old Leonard would figure to get the low tender of $1.101 million, but since he was undrafted, the Panthers would get no compensation if they chose to not match any offer he found in the market.
That might make them consider the second-round tender of $1.684 million, though they’d probably rather not go that high as cost-conscious as they’ve been lately.
If they go low, they might have to compete with other teams for his services. The unrestricted market at DT is particularly thin, with Pittsburgh’s Casey Hampton already re-signed and Green Bay’s Ryan Pickett, New England’s Vince Wilfork and San Francisco’s Aubrayo Franklin getting the franchise tag. That’s left just five unrestricted free agents under the age of 30 available.
That makes Leonard more attractive than you might think for a player with five career starts, especially since a team wouldn’t have to give up a draft pick to get him if the Panthers choose the low tender. He has experience in both 3-4 and 4-3 defenses, and could be viewed as a cheap alternative for many. The Panthers value him, thinking he could become an eventual starter at nose tackle. But if they go too low Thursday, they may have to fight for him.
The Panthers other RFAs are CB Richard Marshall, LB James Anderson, TE Jeff King, K Rhys Lloyd, S Quinton Teal, DT Tank Tyler, CB C.J. Wilson and T Rob Petitti.