The Carolina Panthers agreed to terms with first-round pick Ikem Ekwonu on a four-year contract worth $27 million with a signing bonus of $17 million and a club option for the fifth year on Tuesday.
The contract’s worth is $27,568,052 with a signing bonus of $17,229,492 for the NC State product and all the money is guaranteed as announced on Tuesday.
It sounds amazing, but it is also confusing.
Ekwonu no doubt has potential to be a great anchor, and someday leader of the offensive line for the Panthers, but he’s yet to play a snap in the black and blue.
What is more skeptical about this contract is the Panthers owe Christian McCaffrey money on his ludicrous contract. In 2022 McCaffrey hits the cap with $8,785,750 and dead cap of $26,938,000. The bigger worry is the running back’s health since he only played 10 games since the 2020 season.
Now, Carolina saddled itself with another big contract for a long time that may not work out. Again, Ekwonu can be an amazing player, but five years is a huge investment in an unproven rookie.
On a positive note, Ekwonu turns 22 this season and remained healthy in college, so the Panthers are not giving a contract to an injury-prone player. The hope is he lives up to his hype as the best offensive tackle in the 2022 NFL Draft and improves the OL tremendously.
Now, do not confuse this caution with pessimism, if Ekwonu works out, then that is amazing and a steal of a signing, but there is a certain skepticism to this. It stems from the McCaffrey contract and how this hinders Carolina from making other big signings of free agents.