Analysis: Panthers’ trade of LB Denzel Perryman a lesson in availability

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Linebacker Denzel Perryman arrived at Carolina Panthers training camp in Spartanburg, S.C. with a cup of coffee, literally. And that cup of coffee is now all he’s had with the team, figuratively.

On Wednesday night, the Panthers traded the 28-year-old defender to the Las Vegas Raiders in exchange for a mere pittance. The sudden deal comes just five months after the sides agreed to a two-year, $6 million deal in free agency back in March.

Perryman, who had played in 43 of a possible 64 games over the past four seasons due to numerous injuries, dragged his health struggles with him to Carolina. That’s where the un-perfect storm of events began.

After already having dealt with ankle, knee and thigh issues while with the Los Angeles Chargers, he couldn’t make it to the field entirely as a Panther, sitting out much of camp with a hip flexor. And when that was finally healed, he was stepped on by another player and forced out again with an injured foot.

Perryman was unable to participate in joint practices and, obviously, any preseason game action against the Indianapolis Colts and Baltimore Ravens. That, however, wasn’t all.

The seventh-year veteran went on record in front reporters last month saying he had chosen not to be vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus. While that, of course, is a personal choice completely up to him, it’s not a particularly beneficial one for the state of his football team.

Wherever he or anyone else stands on the issue, there’s no doubt that vaccinations do provide a competitive edge not only in the NFL, but for any professional sport. You can’t play with players that are out with positive COVID tests.

The more your team is shielded, the more personnel you’ll have at your disposal. Perryman, while he was in his right to do so, did present a threat to the roster as long as he decided to remain unvaccinated.

What then made this move even easier to swallow was the ascension of fellow linebacker Jermaine Carter Jr. Yup, Perryman got Wally Pipp’d.

Carter Jr., a fifth-round selection by the organization back from 2018, has worked his absolute tail off from the start and took away the starting role Perryman signed on to have. Through his three, now almost four-year career, he’s shown tangible improvements as an athlete, a firm grasp on the ins and outs of the position and that he’s a leader his teammates can get behind.

Head coach Matt Rhule has caught a beat on it for the year and a half he’s been around, rewarding Carter Jr.’s work with the nod at the heart of his defense. Not to mention, he’s steadily become a fan favorite for his admirable progression and even received a sparkling review from a certain franchise legend who doesn’t often give out the nicest of opinions.

So it was more injuries, no vaccine and a rising star zooming past from behind that all did in Perryman. (And you’d imagine a speeding ticket being one of the first impressions on a new team can’t help much either.) The storm wasn’t perfect for Perryman, but perfect enough to end his listless tenure with the Panthers at 162 days.

The best ability is availability, especially here in 2021. Perryman, simply, wasn’t available.