Scott Fowler

Panthers LB Thomas Davis, 34, is an NFL anomaly, but his contract extension isn’t

Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis has signed a one-year contract extension that will take him through the 2018 NFL season -- which would be his 14th in the league.
Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis has signed a one-year contract extension that will take him through the 2018 NFL season -- which would be his 14th in the league.

There was little doubt that Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis was going to get exactly what he asked for, and the one-year contract extension announced for Davis Tuesday removed what doubt there was.

When you are Mr. Panther personified, and the team’s owner loves you, and you have promised that owner that you will win both you and him a Super Bowl ring before it’s all over, you aren’t going to be playing anywhere else.

But don’t misunderstand me – the Panthers were absolutely correct to do this deal. Davis, 34, is the rarest of anomalies – an NFL player who has survived three ACL surgeries on the same knee and has played the best football of his career in his 30s. Already the Panthers’ all-time leading tackler, Davis made the Pro Bowl for the first time in 2015 and repeated that in 2016.

So this extension – for one year and $6.75 million (with $3 million of it guaranteed), according to an Observer source – is reasonable by NFL standards for a 13-year veteran player who is still making plenty of plays and who is certain to have his own statue unveiled alongside the one of Sam Mills outside Bank of America Stadium sometime in the 2020s.

Interim general manager Marty Hurney – who drafted Davis originally, in 2005, when the team had visions of playing him at safety – made this deal. Good for Hurney, especially since he didn’t overpay. But I believe former GM Dave Gettleman – fired on the eve of training camp by Panthers owner Jerry Richardson – would have eventually extended Davis, too.

The Observer and other media outlets reported that contract negotiations between Gettleman, Davis and tight end Greg Olsen (who also wants an extension but has two years left on his current deal) provided a tipping point for Richardson’s discontent with Gettleman’s blunt bedside manner.

Davis didn’t like those reports, saying in late July he was “extremely irked” by the suggestion he and Olsen had anything to do with Gettleman getting axed. He also said then that Gettleman had never tried to diminish the linebacker’s importance to the defense during contract negotiations.

“I sat down with Mr. Gettleman a bunch,” Davis said in late July. “To his credit, he told me to my face that he didn’t see a decline in my play. He told me that he had never seen anything like it before, for a guy my age. I guess it sort of put him in a tough position making a decision moving forward. But it was never where he said something negative about me as a player or a person.”

Davis and middle linebacker Luke Kuechly give the Panthers two players who move around the field like pinballs, banging into whatever an offense can throw at them. Carolina’s defense with No. 58 and No. 59 both on the field is very often a thing of violent beauty. Since 2012, Davis has made 10 interceptions, which is second-most among NFL linebackers in that time period. He trails only Kuechly, who has had 12.

You can’t lose a player like that, and Davis didn’t want to go anywhere. He’s not being paid here simply for being a good guy – although he is – or winning the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award in 2014 for his community service.

He’s being paid because he can still play. The curious Gettleman saga provides a subplot to the deal, but the contract nevertheless still needed to be extended.

Davis needs to retire as a Panther. This deal makes it almost certain that he will.