Now the question involves players like Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis and whether he will return in 2019.
Davis has spent all 14 of his NFL seasons with the Panthers, and was named to the Pro Bowl each of the previous three seasons (2015-2017).
However, he is 35 years old and missed the first four games of this season because he was suspended for violating the league performance-enhancing drugs policy.
Now he is an unrestricted free agent, and he and the Panthers have to make a decision about his future.
Davis apparently has already made his choice. He wants to continue playing, and he wants to do it with the Panthers. At this point he says he would probably retire before joining a different team.
“That’s the one thing that I look at that, more so than anything, that would not allow me to go play for another team,” he told the Charlotte Observer on Monday. “It’s the one thing that I look at and I focus in on that I would say I would never want to go play for another team. You know, you play somewhere your entire career — that’s special. That means something to me, to be able to say I played all of my career for one team.”
Davis has not had any negotiations with the Panthers yet.
The Panthers have a number of decisions to make regarding free-agent players, including safety Eric Reid, 37-year-old safety Mike Adams, defensive tackle Kyle Love and 38-year-old defensive end Julius Peppers, among others. Peppers had five sacks this season, giving him 159.5 for his career, which ranks fourth alltime.
How the Panthers deal with those issues will affect how they approach Davis’ situation.
Davis took a significant pay cut in 2012, agreeing to a $700,000 base salary with no bonuses after making $8 million the year before.
He took another cut in 2016, when the value of his contract slipped from $10.25 million to $3.5 million.
He says he would be flexible this time too.
“Have you seen how much money I make?” he said, when asked whether he would accept a reduced salary or role if it meant returning to the Panthers. “I’ve already taken a pay cut.
“Whatever I need to do to make sure that we get it done and I’m still here. It’s a negotiation, so this will be something that will take place. It’ll happen and we’ll see what happens coming from there.”
Last January, Davis said 2018 would be his final season, but he changed his mind when the NFL hit him with the four-game suspension. As a result he played in only 12 games this season, and he wants to play a full season.
“Playing a complete season,” he said regarding one of his reasons for returning. “Definitely starts with the motivation of winning the Super Bowl. That’s why we play this game, to go out and compete, win games and win the Super Bowl. And really just come back out and compete and (show) some of these people that doubt me being able to still play at a high level wrong.
“For right now, my focus is on coming back here and helping this team win.”
Davis had 79 total tackles, including three tackles for loss, this season. But he had no sacks and no interceptions.
“I honestly don’t have a clue what’s going to happen,” Davis told the Observer. “I feel like I’m still wanted here and I’ve had several conversations with people that still want me to be around. You just love being wanted. Everybody knows my heart, they know how I feel about this organization and I feel like I know how they feel about me.
“I want to be confident that I’m going to be a Panther. I don’t want to think about being in another uniform. That’s a super last-ditch — I don’t even want to think about it, to be honest with you.”
–QB Kyle Allen made his first career start on Sunday against New Orleans. He completed 16 of 27 passes for 228 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in the 33-14 victory over the Saints. For the season was 20 of 31 for 266 yards, two scores and no picks.
–QB Garrett Gilbert was waived on Monday. He was the backup to Kyle Allen on Sunday and completed 2 of 3 passes for 40 yards, with no touchdowns and no interceptions in that game.
–LB Brandon Chubb was one of 13 players signed to future contracts by the Panthers. It guarantees those players a roster spot when the NFL year begins in March. It does not mean they can’t be waived or cut.
–RB Cameron Artis-Payne was the Panthers’ leading rusher on Sunday with 56 yards on 16 carries. It was the first time this season he had more than one carry and more than 7 yards on the ground.
–WR DJ Moore had four receptions for 81 yards on Sunday. He finished the season with 55 catches for 588 yards and two touchdowns.