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Panthers restructure contracts of Christian McCaffrey, Shaq Thompson

Normally, simple player contract restructures aren't very notable. It's accounting calculus used by clubs to maneuver the salary cap. It's boring, with little substantive changes to the process. 2021 is slightly different. With the cap falling to $182.5 million this season, it's become more pervasive and notable.

It's gotten to the point that coaches are even announcing restructures, something rarely done in the past.

On Wednesday, Carolina Panthers coach Matt Rhule said both Christian McCaffrey and Shaq Thompson restructured their contracts to give the club more space under the cap.

Unlike some clubs, the Panthers aren't over the cap, but it's snugger than most years after franchise tagging offensive tackle Taylor Moton.

NFL Network's Mike Garafolo reported that McCaffrey converted $7,047,500 of his $8,037,500 base salary into a signing bonus, which gives the Panthers a cap savings in 2021 of $5.638 million.

McCaffrey's conversion is a good example of what clubs across the league are doing to create space. The process takes a high base-salary player and converts that figure into a signing bonus, dropping his base salary to the minimum -- in CMC's case, $990,000. Teams can then spread that bonus over the life of the contract or add void years to the end -- up to five total years -- to lessen the hit in the short term.

It's a positive for the player who gets his money sooner than he would with a base salary.

While the move raises cap levels in future years, if the salary cap spikes as expected in subsequent seasons, clubs should be able to cover the costs down the road more easily. Teams run the risk of additional dead money down the road or higher franchise tag figures for those who might qualify, but for players under contract for the long haul and stars like McCaffrey, the risk is minimal.

McCaffrey and Thompson are just two of many, many players who will likely see their contracts restructured as we lead up to the new league year on March 17. With the salary cap finally solidified, clubs know what they are working with and what moves they'll have to make to create flexibility for free agency.

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