Is Miles Sanders on the outs with Panthers’ reported signing of Rashaad Penny?

The numbers game may have just caught up to Miles Sanders, and it almost has nothing to do with the three years and $22.8 million left on his contract.

We learned on Monday, per ESPN senior NFL insider Jeremy Fowler, that the Carolina Panthers are expected to sign running back Rashaad Penny following rookie minicamp this weekend. Penny would stand as the second notable addition to the team’s backfield over the past few weeks, as they also grabbed University of Texas standout Jonathon Brooks with the 46th overall selection of the 2024 NFL draft.

So, where does all of this leave Sanders? Well, the outlook for the 27-year-old rusher wasn’t particularly encouraging, even prior to these latest moves.

Sanders was one of Carolina’s major free-agent signings from last offseason, as he inked a four-year, $25.4 million pact off a career campaign with the Philadelphia Eagles. But that deal came behind the backing of general manager Scott Fitterer, head coach Frank Reich and running backs coach Duce Staley—none of whom have an office at Bank of America Stadium anymore.

The first year of that agreement ended up being the worst of Sanders’ pro tenure. He scored just one touchdown, hit lows in starts (five), attempts (129) and rushing yards (432) and averaged 3.3 yards per carry—the third-lowest in the NFL amongst all qualifying ball carriers.

Hopes of establishing himself as a do-it-all back, perhaps even as a lite version of Christian McCaffrey, were quickly dashed—as third-year rusher Chuba Hubbard effectively took over lead duties in Week 6. Hubbard wouldn’t let Sanders back in either, as he finished with a career-high 902 rushing yards in 2023.

2024 was likely to see Hubbard maintain the starting job over Sanders, and that thinking existed before Brooks and Penny would come along. Now, the organization has invested quite a bit into the former and may be bringing in the latter as his complement.

Not only did the Panthers draft Brooks as the first running back of the draft, but they moved up to do so. He won’t be treated as just another competitor on the depth chart.

The same might go for Penny—who brings a style Sanders, and even Hubbard, cannot. At 5-foot-11 and 220 pounds, the former Seattle Seahawk could very well be the occasional smash to Brooks’ dash and help Carolina finally get over the hump on those ill-fated short-yardage situations.

If the Panthers are rolling three-deep at the spot come September, Hubbard should be the favorite to stick over Sanders as he enters the final year of his rookie contract. While a trade or release of Sanders would create some considerable dead cap moving forward, general manager Dan Morgan and executive vice president of football operations Brandt Tilis have shown they’re not afraid to take some financial lumps during the reconstruction of their roster.

Just ask Vonn Bell, Hayden Hurst, Donte Jackson and Bradley Bozeman—who will combine for nearly $40 million of dead cap this season. Depending on the designation (pre- or post-June 1), Sanders would account for $10.4 million or $7.5 million in 2024 off a cut or $4.4 million or $1.4 million via trade.

But maybe, just maybe, Sanders isn’t through in Carolina. His saving grace could be the vision Morgan laid out for him after drafting Brooks two weekends ago.

“In terms of Miles, we love Miles,” he said when asked of the team is open to trading Sanders. “We see a big role for him. I think Dave [Canales] will tell you the same thing—we think really highly of Miles, we love Miles. He can do a lot for our offense. He’s versatile in the pass game and he’s a really good runner. So we’re excited about him as well.”

But if that’s just GM speak, Sanders will have to find another team that’s actually excited about him.

Story originally appeared on Panthers Wire