Malik Jackson muddied the market in March. On Monday, Fletcher Cox blew it up.
The Eagles gave their Pro Bowl defensive tackle a 6-year extension worth as much as $103 million, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. Of that, $63 million is guaranteed, the biggest such chunk for a non-quarterback in NFL history.
Because the guaranteed money of a massive contract is always inflated in initial reports, we don't yet know the real details of Cox's deal. But here's a rough comparison with the extensions the Panthers gave quarterback Cam Newton and linebacker Luke Kuechly last summer:
|F. Cox||6 years||$103M||$17.2M||$63M|
|C. Newton||5 years||$103.8M||$20.8M||$60M|
|L. Kuechly||5 years||$61.8M||$12.4M||$34.3M|
*not fully guaranteed; for injury only
The Panthers will certainly be interested in how much Philadelphia gave Cox. So will Kawann Short and his agent, Joel Segal. Their hunt for an extension hasn't focused on the 6-year, $90 million contract the Jaguars gave Jackson in March. Instead, a source said, Short's side believes the better comparison is Cox.
That means their neighborhood is in the $17 million range. That also means it's unlikely the Panthers will give them what they want right now. The sense inside the building is general manager Dave Gettleman won't go much further than $15 million per season. So if Short stays where he's at, we may be headed for another contract-year staredown.
Like cornerback Josh Norman last season, Short could bet on himself, playing under the final year of his rookie contract worth a little over $1 million. If he puts down another Pro Bowl season, he'll get the massive payday he wants — most likely outside Carolina.
But like they wanted to do with Norman, the Panthers hope to get a long-term deal done with Short. They're just not going to pay a guy more than his value. While the Redskins helped Norman reach his $15 million a year goal, a team's willingness to spend top dollar doesn't often reflect true value.
Also like Norman, if the two sides don't hammer something out by the start of the season, the Panthers could put their franchise tag on Short next offseason. This year, the tag for defensive tackles is $13.6 million, a number sure to go up in 2017.
While the prospect of seeing Short walk is a scary prospect for fans who watched Norman end up in D.C., this is the product of winning. It's not easy choosing who "to let graduate." Yes, Gettleman doesn't want "to develop players for other teams." But he also doesn't "subscribe to the 'one player away' theory."
Besides Short, the Panthers eventually want to sign defensive tackle Star Lotulelei to an extension. Future seasons could include big money for guys like defensive end Kony Ealy, guard Trai Turner and receiver Kelvin Benjamin. The Panthers have plenty of cap space right now, but blowing past your budget for one player is a slippery slope few good teams are willing to navigate.
A good team also has to draft well, which brings us to the Panthers' insurance policy. They didn't have Short on their minds when they went on the clock with the 30th pick in this year's draft. Defensive tackle Vernon Butler just so happened to be the best player on their board.
The Panthers don't want to use that policy for the next few years. They hope to keep Short around long term, and he wants to stay in Carolina. But right now, the two sides have a ways to go. That's why Short suddenly stopped showing to OTAs.
It was good news when he returned Monday for the start of minicamp. The contract news that came later from Philadelphia wasn't good.