2. Carolina Panthers LB Shaq Thompson
The Panthers are currently $7.9 million over the cap, and Thompson’s $24.46 million cap hit is third-highest on their balance sheet right now. Cutting him before June 1 would clear $13.16 million. His contract turns through 2024, so Carolina may just cut bait rather than extend his deal or do a restructure as he enters his age-29 season. He wouldn’t be the first notable Panther to be let go when he seemed to still have plenty left in the tank.
Thompson has been a mainstay on the Carolina defense ever since being drafted in the first round of the 2015 draft. He played all 17 games this season, with a career-high 135 total tackles. He played 94 percent of the Panthers’ defensive snaps, including every single snap in 12 games.
The Lions could use an experienced linebacker to pair with Malcolm Rodriguez. Alex Anzalone was fine this season, but it was the best season of his career and that’s all he was–fine. Anzalone is also a free agent, and he may be able to get a better deal elsewhere. Thompson is, very simply, a better player than Anzalone.
If Thompson becomes available as a cap cut by the Panthers, he will definitely have multiple suitors. But the Lions should be able to compete in his market from a financial perspective, and maybe he can be sold on the culture in Detroit.