The Carolina Panthers said goodbye to one Kalil brother Sunday. But what about the other one?
Matt Kalil was signed in 2017 to a $55.5-million contract to be the team’s answer at left tackle. Instead, Kalil heads into the 2019 offseason with a host of questions after not playing the entire 2018 season because of a right knee injury.
Ryan Kalil, who is four years older than Matt, retired Sunday after the Panthers’ 33-14 victory over New Orleans.
Matt Kalil, in the meantime, is under contract with the Panthers through 2021 but acknowledged there’s a chance that they “don’t bring me back.”
The Panthers certainly will have to consider all options at left tackle. But releasing Matt Kalil would be a huge salary-cap hit — the exact number in the millions, but depending on a variety of factors.
If the Panthers trust that his knee is going to be better, it might be wiser to keep Matt Kalil around for at least one more year.
Matt Kalil said Sunday the season “didn’t pan out like I wanted to.” He was placed on injured reserve in early September, and at the time Panthers general manager Marty Hurney said: “We decided to make the move now so he’s eligible to come back after eight games.”
But Matt Kalil never came back. The promised Kalil-Kalil brotherly reunion really never materialized in their two years as teammates. Ryan was hurt for more than half of the 2017 season (when Matt started all 16 games) and then Matt was hurt for all of the 2018 season.
“Obviously, we would have liked to have played together this year,” Matt Kalil said, “and that’s what I’m a little upset about.… Still, I got to learn a lot from Ryan and he’s been a great role model for me.”
Kalil said his older brother — a five-time Pro Bowler in his 12 NFL seasons — should go down as “probably the greatest lineman to come out of this franchise, ever.”
▪ Although the Panthers have issues in a number of places, their offensive skill positions are very promising. Rookie tight end Ian Thomas scored for the second straight game Sunday. Curtis Samuel broke free for a 53-yard TD. And DJ Moore led the team in receiving yards (81) and looked again like a future No. 1 NFL receiver.
▪ Mario Addison ended up leading the Panthers with nine sacks in 2018. It was the third straight season he either led or tied for the team lead in sacks.
▪ Running back Christian McCaffrey was throwing the ball on the sideline in the fourth quarter and would have been Carolina’s emergency quarterback had Garrett Gilbert gotten hurt. By then, Kyle Allen was already out of the game because of a shoulder injury. Coach Ron Rivera joked that he would have punted the ball on first down every time rather than play McCaffrey at quarterback at that point.
McCaffrey scoffed at that notion later, however, saying the Panthers had practiced a “small set” of plays he could run in just such a scenario. In any case, McCaffrey didn’t have to go back into the game and played only the game’s first series at running back. He finished with 1,965 yards from scrimmage in 2018, a franchise record.