Once the Carolina Panthers let Josh Norman go rather than deal with his contract demands, most people figured that general manager Dave Gettleman would use at least some of those savings toward a sweet new contract for Kawann Short.
And rightly so. Short broke out in a big way in 2015, his third NFL season. The 6-3, 299-pound defensive tackle started all 16 games and was a wrecking ball in the middle, notching 11 sacks and 36 solo tackles.
Gettleman values a defensive tackle like Short much more than a cornerback, and you can understand the logic. Good defensive tackles plug holes, lock up offensive linemen and free up the linebackers and defensive ends to make plays. The great ones do all of that and also make the big plays themselves. When you have a defensive tackle who is that much of a disruptive force, he’ll make all your defensive backs and linebackers that much better.
But while it appears that this is the direction Short is taking his career as he matures as a player, the sides have so far been unable to reach a deal. No worries, though, said head coach Ron Rivera, who insists that the situation has not been a distraction and says he’s optimistic a deal will get done.
“That has not been a distraction,” Rivera told Panthers.com. “In fact, the first I’ve heard of it is you just bringing it up. It’s been awhile.”
He continued: “Somewhere along the line, they’ll get together, they’ll figure it out. I believe they will. He’s too important a player for us, and K.K. likes where he is. We’ll see how it all unfolds.”
Short will make just more than $1 million in 2016, the final year of his rookie deal, so he is poised for a huge raise. As one of the emerging top defensive tackles in the NFL, Short certainly appears to be worthy of one.
He might even be aiming to land in the same range as the six-year, $102.6 million deal that the Philadelphia Eagles gave Fletcher Cox. You won’t get any argument from Rivera that Short won’t deserve it, either, who pointed out that Short works hard away from the field as well.
“The young man shows up and plays,” Rivera said. “It’s going very well. He’s done some really nice things, and not just with what you see in practice or games. Overall, he’s really done some nice things.”
You won’t get an argument from neutral observers either. Following Week 7 last season, Pro Football Focus said Short was the highest-rated defensive tackle in the NFL, owning “a better interior defender grade than J.J. Watt and Aaron Donald.”
That’s some high praise, and the scary thing is that Short might just be scratching the surface.
When you consider that players will often put together a career year when he is in line for a new contract, it would seem wise for the Panthers to act sooner rather than later in locking up their rising star.
Because the way things are going, the price is only going to go up.