As the Carolina Panthers get set to fly to Denver to start the NFL season Thursday night, the team is closing in on a deadline that would end contract negotiations with defensive tackle Kawann Short.
Short, a Pro Bowler entering the final year of his rookie deal, indicated Monday the two sides are still working on a possible extension.
Asked if he was preparing to bet on himself – as cornerback Josh Norman said he would do last season – Short said: “We’ve still got a couple more days, so hopefully something changes.”
Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman does not like negotiating once the regular season starts, so there would appear to be a small window to get a deal done. But Gettleman has narrowly beaten the Week 1 deadline in the past.
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Last year Pro Bowl linebacker Luke Kuechly signed a five-year, $62 million extension three days before the season opener at Jacksonville.
Gettleman said last week that negotiations were ongoing with Short, whose 11 sacks last year were the most by a Panthers defensive tackle in team history and tied for the league lead among defensive tackles.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera said last month Short is “too important of a player” to let get away.
Short, 27, is seeking an extension in line with the $17-million-a-year deals received by Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson this summer.
The Panthers failed to reach an agreement with Norman before last season. The former fifth-round pick went on to have his best season, and wanted to be paid among the NFL’s top corners.
With the two sides locked in a contract standoff in April, Gettleman pulled the franchise tag that would have paid Norman about $14 million this season. Norman signed a five-year, $75 million contract with Washington days later.
But the Short situation is different.
First, he plays a position that Gettleman values more highly. Gettleman’s affinity for big guys was first made apparent when he snagged defensive tackles Star Lotulelei and Short in the first two rounds of the 2013 draft, Gettleman’s first with the Panthers.
It’s also worth noting how Short has handled the negotiations. Norman went on several national media outlets to proclaim his worth.
Short staged a brief holdout during organized team activities, but returned the next week for the mandatory minicamp. Despite a $1 million salary this season that is well below his market value, Short hasn’t done anything to rock the boat.
“That’s just who I am. I don’t seek for the attention. I don’t need to make a big impression about it,” Short said this week. “Everybody knows it takes them upstairs and my representation to get it done. It’s not like I can be on social media just bashing the team that I’m playing for.
“It’s crazy. I just (remain) modest and stay humble about the whole process and hopefully get blessed at the end.”
Short will anchor a front seven that Broncos coach Gary Kubiak this week called the best he’s ever coached against.
Short was a disruptive force throughout the Panthers’ Super Bowl season. He led the team with 32 quarterback pressures and became the first player since Charles Woodson in 2009 to win multiple NFC Defensive Player of the Month awards in a season.
But he says he can – and needs to – improve. Short said with opponents studying more film of him, he has to refine his technique and make sure he’s still quick off the snap of the ball.
“Get-off determines everything. It determines what that person you’re lined up (against) gives you,” Short said. “I’ve been watching guys like (Tampa Bay defensive tackle) Gerald McCoy. He opened up the door as far as what it takes (with) that get-off and defeating the man in front of you.”
Panthers coach Ron Rivera appreciates that the negotiations with Short didn’t become a distraction, and is hopeful a deal can be struck – this week or next offseason.
“He and his agent, and Dave and our guys, have done a great job trying to work behind the scenes,” Rivera said. “And who knows? I have no idea because that falls in Dave’s department. But I know at some point we all hopefully can get it all done.”