It’s only been 48 hours since the Carolina Panthers cleaned their lockers out and there is already anticipation on what moves, if any, are on the horizon. Fresh off a win over the Saints to close out the season and snap a seven-game losing skid, there are several players, and maybe coaches, whose futures hang in the balance.
Veteran center Ryan Kalil is hanging up his cleats after a 12-year career and apparently, Sunday’s game was the last dance for defensive end Julius Peppers as well. While Peppers has stopped short of saying that he is retiring, head coach Ron Rivera certainly insinuated as much during his post-game press conference.
“It’s probably the best way to send Ryan and Pep off on their way,” said Rivera of Sunday’s win. “(They are) two great Panthers. It’s kind of nice for them,” Linebacker Luke Kuechly doubled down on the Peppers’ retirement assumption. “You talk about two guys who are two of the best players in this team’s history and to send them out with a win after the way this season has gone is something that is cool, ” said Kuechly when speaking with media following Sunday’s win. Peppers himself left the Superdome without providing a statement.
Another decorated Panther whose future is a bit more uncertain is linebacker Thomas Davis who is set to become a free agent for the first time in his 14-year career. Davis spoke about the emotions that come with the uncertainty about his future.
“I’m getting emotional again, but, it’s just one of those things that I hope that it gets worked out. I’ve said it time and time again and I’ll say it again. My heart is here and this is where I want to be. I really can’t see myself playing for another team.”
Along with Davis and Peppers, Devin Funchess, Eric Reid, Daryl Williams, Mike Adams, Wes Horton, Kyle Love, Chris Clark, Chris Manhertz, and Cameron Artis-Payne are other notable free agents. Funchess was expected to be a strong WR1 but it’s all but certain that his time with the Panthers is up. Funchess was a healthy scratch for the final game; a decision head coach Ron Rivera said was one that he made going forward. With 2018 first round pick DJ Moore quickly developing, the decision is understood.
Carolina has a total of 29 players set to become free agents, excluding Ryan Kalil.