Kawann Short: 5 best fits in NFL free agency

Kawann Short has been a dominant force on the Carolina Panthers defensive line for years. Here are five solid landing spots for him in NFL free agency.

It’s all about winning in the trenches in the NFL. Outside of a dismal 6-10 season last year, the Carolina Panthers have been one of the better teams in the NFC thanks to a ferocious front-seven. One standout player from the extended position group is defensive tackle Kawann Short.

Short is a former second-round pick out of Purdue by the Panthers in the 2013 NFL Draft. He has started all 16 games up front for the Panthers the last two seasons, totaling 17.0 quarterback sacks and garnering a trip to the 2015 Pro Bowl.

Perhaps Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman prematurely parted ways with All-Pro cornerback Josh Norman last offseason, knowing that he’d need to fork up some dough to re-sign Short. Here are the five teams that should consider signing Short this free agency cycle.

5

Baltimore Ravens

AFC, North

The Baltimore Ravens need to make the AFC Playoffs this upcoming season. 2017 will be five years since their last Super Bowl run. General manager Ozzie Newsome has had plenty of time to rebuild John Harbaugh’s football team. It’s a make or break year for Maryland’s professional football team.

Baltimore unfortunately does not have the luxury of a cache of salary cap space. Newsome will only have $15,254,325 to improve his AFC North football club. One area that the Ravens could look to upgrade is at defensive tackle.

Brandon Williams will be hitting free agency. Baltimore could try to retain him, but could also look to improve that position group. The Ravens were stout in run defense, but need a potential star in the making up front like what Haloti Ngata was in his prime in Baltimore.

Short would be that guy Harbaugh would love to have in his front-seven. He can get after the passing in compromising the integrity of a passing pocket. Short can factor in running stuffing as well.

Baltimore may not be able to afford Short at this time, but will have its opportunity to increase cap space by cutting a few non-productive players. With Steve Smith Sr. coming off the books due to retirement, Baltimore stands to have an outside shot at landing Short this spring.

Dec 11, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers defensive tackle Kawann Short (99) applies pressure to San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) in the first quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 11, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers defensive tackle Kawann Short (99) applies pressure to San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) in the first quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

4

Denver Broncos

AFC, West

It’s wasn’t just lousy quarterback play that was the undoing of the 2016 Denver Broncos in their quest to repeat as Super Bowl Champions. Denver struggled to run the football once C.J. Anderson got hurt.

It didn’t help that the Broncos missed defensive tackle Malik Jackson and inside linebacker Danny Trevathan left in free agency. Jackson signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Trevathan signed with former Broncos head coach John Fox’s Chicago Bears. They combined to win six games, three short of the Broncos’ 9-7 campaign.

Realistically, the Broncos need to get better in the interior of their defense. General manager John Elway can probably afford one big splash with a free agent acquisition on that side of the ball. Might that be Carolina’s Short?

Denver has some salary cap flexibility with roughly $33,131,140 to work with this offseason. Short wouldn’t command most of it, but would presumably garner at least a third of it when he hits free agency this spring.

Schematically, Short would fit in nicely with Joe Woods’ defense. He was promoted from within from the Gary Kubiak era of the team. With the Broncos defense staying largely intact, there is a good chance Short could be courted by Denver should they have the available cap space to sign him.

Jan 17, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) is brought down by Carolina Panthers defensive tackle Kawann Short (99) during the second quarter in a NFC Divisional round playoff game at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 17, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) is brought down by Carolina Panthers defensive tackle Kawann Short (99) during the second quarter in a NFC Divisional round playoff game at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

3

Seattle Seahawks

NFC, West

Has the Super Bowl window closed for the Seattle Seahawks? Probably not entirely, but this is not the same team that played in back-to-back Super Bowls in 2013 and 2014. They still have Pete Carroll as head coach and Russell Wilson at quarterback, but general manager John Schneider has some work to do this spring.

Although they cut their teeth defensively in the Carroll era, Seattle could use a boost in its front-four, particularly at defensive tackle. Schneider doesn’t have a ton of cap space, but he has some to work with.

He could use his projected $27,253,640 worth of cap space to land a top-tier defensive tackle in free agency. Or he could rebuild his porous offensive line? Either way, Schneider is about to make some moves this offseason in free agency.

In all honesty, Short would look really good in the Seahawks front-seven. He could play off star defensive end Michael Bennett and open up some things for linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright to make some plays.

Seattle will likely have to part ways with a few players to create enough space to sign Short and resolve most of their other offseason needs. However, it’s hard to not see Short succeeding should he be in a Seahawks uniform, no matter how strange that may look.

Dec 13, 2015; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers defensive tackle Kawann Short (99) reacts after a sack in the third quarter against the Atlanta Falcons at Bank of America Stadium. Panthers defeated the Falcons 38-0. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 13, 2015; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers defensive tackle Kawann Short (99) reacts after a sack in the third quarter against the Atlanta Falcons at Bank of America Stadium. Panthers defeated the Falcons 38-0. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

2

Carolina Panthers

NFC, South

It may not be the No.1 priority for Gettleman this offseason, but re-signing Short to a multi-year deal to solidify his defensive line has to be right up there. Throughout its history as an NFL franchise, the Panthers are almost always strong on the defensive line. Don’t expect that to change anytime soon.

It had to have been difficult to rescind the franchise tag on an All-Pro cornerback like Norman, but that must be how much Gettleman values Short on his defensive line. He is a player that Carolina cannot afford to lose this spring if the Panthers want to contend for its second trip to the Super Bowl in three seasons.

Carolina should still have a strong front-seven next season, but both Thomas Davis and Charles Johnson are getting old. Let’s not forget the issues Luke Kuechly has had with concussions. If Gettleman wants to keep his front-seven’s future bright he must build around Short and defensive tackle Star Lotulelei.

Fortunately for the Panthers, Carolina has a ton of cap space. The Panthers will have roughly $50,478,149 to work with this offseason. They will have a top-10 draft pick and enough capital to land a few marquee players in free agency.

Short can get paid what he deserves with the Panthers, but he does have two questions to ask before re-upping with Carolina: 1.) How does this defense fair now that former defensive coordinator Sean McDermott is the head coach of the Buffalo Bills? 2.) Is he sure that the ball of quarterback Cam Newton’s career isn’t already behind him?

Nov 8, 2015; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers defensive tackle Kawann Short (99) sacks Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) during the second quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 8, 2015; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers defensive tackle Kawann Short (99) sacks Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) during the second quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

1

Oakland Raiders

AFC, West

It’s the same group of five teams that will be making serious moves in free agency this spring. One team that has a leg up on the rest is the Oakland Raiders, as they are already legitimate contenders in the AFC.

Oakland made its first trip to the AFC Playoffs since 2002. Unfortunately starting quarterback Derek Carr broke his leg on Christmas Eve. The Raiders were inert in their AFC Wild Card game against the vaunted Houston Texans defense.

Not only do the Raiders have sizable cap space, but they have a dire need to get better at defensive tackle. Oakland has a projected $48,945,414 for general manager Reggie McKenzie to use to his liking. He should throw whatever sticks to pry Short away from Charlotte.

Those he looks good in Carolina blue for the Panthers, Short feels like a guy that would embrace all that is silver and black with the Raiders. He’d get to play three great defensive-minded coaches in the Bay Area for a serious Super Bowl contender: head coach Jack Del Rio, defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr., and new assistant defensive coordinator John Pagano.

Add in that he’ll get to play with a superstar in outside linebacker Khalil Mack and several other great defensive players and it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Short takes less to play with the Raiders over the Panthers. It’s going to be an interesting arms race between these two teams for Short’s next contract.

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