In a season brimming with dread and disappointment, the Carolina Panthers actually have something worthy of a No. 1 spot on a set of rankings. But unfortunately, it’s probably not a set of rankings you’d want to be at the top of.
ESPN analyst Matt Bowen and senior NFL reporter Jeremy Fowler recently pieced together their early rankings for the 2024 free agent class. Leading the list is outside linebacker Brian Burns—who bested out the likes of Kansas City defensive tackle Chris Jones, Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins and Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins.
Along with the rankings comes a bit of buzz for Burns—who, according to Fowler, is expected to get the tag. He writes:
Burns would have a massive market in free agency, but the expectation around the league is the Panthers will franchise tag Burns at around $22 million. Things will then get interesting. Does Burns stay away from the team and threaten to miss games? Sides never closed the gap in 2023 offseason negotiations, and it feels like anything is possible at this point.
The two-time Pro Bowl pass rusher, back in Week 2, told reporters that contract talks were put on hold after the sides were reportedly well off on an agreement. Burns has since said he and the team would revisit negotiations when it makes sense.
If the Panthers were to use that $22 million franchise tag next year, they may not get as much cooperation out of Burns—who has been “holding in” rather than holding out this season. But until then, we’ll see if they can make some sense out of the cents.