There’s a very wide spectrum of emotions flying around as various fans and media outlets process the report that Thomas Davis will not be re-signed by the Carolina Panthers for the 2019 season. Understandings of the reasons are as diverse as the flakes of a cold winter snowfall, but most people share one common emotion... sadness. Players who have lived the caliber of career and life that Thomas Davis can claim are priceless in their rarity, and my belief is that they are only getting rarer. Davis embodies the spirit of the game, and we were very fortunate that he shared it with our team for the vast majority (and possibly all) of his career.
However, it is possible to both mourn the departure of a team legend and understand the move at the same time. This isn’t our first visit to this rodeo, and it also certainly won’t be the last one. The business side of the NFL is hard to mix with the raw emotion many fans feel for their team and certain players, this is just the latest example.
A General Manager changing his ways
Before getting to on-field implications, I think we should start discussions with the fact this move is further proof that this Marty Hurney isn’t the same one we saw during his first tenure. Telling a fourteen year veteran star, one that he drafted himself back in 2005, that he won’t be re-signed is a major shift in expectations from what we’ve seen in the past. While general managers are constantly walking the popularity lines based on their latest moves, since his return to Carolina, Hurney has had more to brag about than regret.
We should all remain skeptical, but at least he has shown some propensity to learn and grow from experience.
A future plan with significant investment
The real reason that the Panthers have to move on from Thomas Davis is the future of Shaq Thompson. I think there was a pretty high degree of certainty that this would be Davis’ final season, and the team planned accordingly by exercising the fifth year option on Thompson’s rookie contract to give them flexibility heading into 2019. The notion that Davis might be playing again next year really started fueling about a month ago, but the team knows it absolutely has to hand the reigns over to a younger player, get a complete season of evaluation on him, and sign a long term contract based on that.
Make no mistake, there are absolutely locker room politics at play here. Thinking that Thomas Davis, if re-signed, would really be asked to play a reserve only role on a team he’s lead for so long is foolish. Not only would Davis himself push for more snaps, I think Ron Rivera would happily give them to him. Nothing about his history regarding preference for veterans says otherwise.