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DT Kawann Short contract looms over Panthers minicamp

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Kawann Short practices at the Panthers minicamp (WTVD)

For full coverage on the Panthers first day of minicamp, including updates on rookies, view Joe Mazur's report in the video player above.

Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Tuesday he doesn't pay much attention to player contracts and likes to "stay in his lane.''

But in the same breath, he took note of the six-year, $103 million extension the Philadelphia Eagles gave defensive Fletcher Cox on Monday.

And he admitted it "probably will complicate'' getting a long-term extension negotiated for Carolina Pro Bowl defensive tackle Kawann Short, who participated in the first of a mandatory three-day minicamp after skipping the past six practices of voluntary workouts.

The contract could make an extension downright impossible if Short and his agent, Joel Segal, demand a similar deal to Cox's, which averages $17.2 million a year with $63 million guaranteed.

General manager Dave Gettleman isn't into overpaying -- or at least what he considers overpaying -- players. We saw that most recently when he rescinded the franchise tag on Pro Bowl cornerback Josh Norman, now with the Washington Redskins.



Norman wanted in the neighborhood of $14 million to $15 million a year for his extension. Gettleman's best offer was $11 million, about $3 million less than the tag number.

As much as Gettleman loves the big men he affectionately refers to as "hog mollies,'' it's hard to imagine him giving Short more than $15 million a year. Not after he's spent the past three years getting Carolina out of salary cap hell.

Gettleman probably would like to sign Short for between $13 million and $15 million a year. But Cox's deal almost ensures that won't happen.

Remember, Carolina quarterback Cam Newton signed a five-year, $103.8 million deal that averages $20.8 million a year last June. He got $60 million guaranteed.

Middle linebacker Luke Kuechly, a three-time Pro Bowl selection and the 2013 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, signed a five-year deal before last season that averages $12.4 million a year.

They are considered the cornerstones of the offense and defense.

Granted, we're talking apples to oranges when it comes to a deal for a defensive tackle and middle linebacker. But Gettleman isn't likely to give Short the big apple the Eagles gave Cox.

And after the 2017 season, he has to deal with re-signing 2013 first-round pick Star Lotulelei, which complicates things even further. Remember, the defensive tackle out of Utah was selected a round higher than Short in the same draft.

If Lotulelei comes anywhere close this year or next to the season Short had in 2015, when he led the team with 11 sacks, that'll be another megadeal to consider making.

As has been mentioned here several times, one of the reasons Gettleman selected Louisiana Tech defensive tackle Vernon Butler in the first round this year was because he anticipated such scenarios.

But he probably didn't anticipate a deal as large as the one Eagles gave Cox, who had fewer sacks (9.5) than Short this past season.

Rivera may prefer to stay in his lane and not mix business with coaching when he talks to players, but he couldn't help but take notice.



"This is the hard part right now, [it] is what's going on in the league,'' he said. "Some of these contracts are unbelievable ,from what I'm seeing and hearing. How far I get into them, I don't, because it's not my job to do.''

Rivera's job is to coach, and he was glad Short was on the field for the minicamp. He doesn't care for distractions, and that would have created one.

"I know it's mandatory,'' Rivera said. "I'm just glad that he had to be here, because he looked good out here, and I know his teammates appreciated having him here.''

Outside linebacker Thomas Davis and defensive end Kony Ealy said it was good to have Short back as the team attempts to lay the foundation for another Super Bowl run. They also understand why he wasn't there the past two weeks.

"Everybody is going to have to go through that step at some point in their life,'' Ealy said of contract talks. "You handle it in a professional way. Whether he's here or not, we understand what's going on.

"At the end of the day, we're trying to get to another step. We don't worry about other things. We stay focused, and that's the difference between us and a lot of teams. It's the reason we're going in the right direction.''

Short declined to comment after practice, noting he was told he couldn't say anything. But his absence the past two weeks spoke volumes, and Cox's deal only underscored that an extension won't be easily reached.

"[Somebody said] it's going to complicate things, and it probably will,'' Rivera said. "So we'll see how things unfold.''
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