Why the cap hit of Panthers defensive end Charles Johnson stands out

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- One name stands out more than any when you look at the NFL's 10 highest salary-cap hits 2015.

Charles Johnson.

The Carolina Panthers defensive end ranks third in the NFL with a 2015 cap hit of $20,020,000. Only New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees ($26.4 million) and Detroit wide receiver Calvin Johnson ($20,558,000) have a bigger number.

So why does Charles Johnson's number stand out? His achievements don’t suggest a cap hit that high.

Johnson is the only player among the top 10 who hasn’t been to the Pro Bowl at least once. Eight of the 10 have been to three or more Pro Bowls, topped by Peyton Manning with 14.

Four of the 10 have been to at least one Super Bowl, won at least one Super Bowl and won at least one Super Bowl MVP award. Seven of the 10 are quarterbacks.

The six-year, $76-million deal former Carolina general manager Marty Hurney gave Johnson in 2011 has been called one of the worst in the NFL.

It’s a deal that still challenges new general manager Dave Gettleman even though it has been restructured each of the past two years to lower the cap hit.

Why the contract hasn’t been restructured again this year is one of the questions I’ve been asked most often during the offseason. It still could happen. His past two restructures didn’t happen until September.

This isn’t to suggest Johnson isn’t a valued member of the Panthers or deserving of a big contract.

Johnson has led Carolina in sacks four of the past five seasons. The only time he didn’t was in 2013 when Greg Hardy had 15. Johnson ranks second in team history with 62.5 sacks.

Only 10 players have more than his 41 sacks since 2011. He is tied for seventh in tackles for loss during that span with 47.

He ranked first on the Panthers in quarterback pressures last season with 44, and second in forced fumbles with three. Few were more instrumental as locker room leaders last season when Carolina went from a 3-8-1 start to NFC South champion for the second straight year.

So Johnson is valued.

He just doesn’t have a resume that warrants being the third-highest cap hit in the NFL.

Here’s a complete look at the list:

Brees, QB, Saints, $26,400,000: Nine-time Pro Bowl selection; Played in one Super Bowl; Super Bowl champion; Super Bowl MVP.

Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions, $20,558,000: Five-time Pro Bowl selection; two-time NFL receiving yards leader; NFL single-season record for receiving yards (1,964 in 2012).

Charles Johnson, DE, Panthers, $20,020,000: Second on Panthers’ all-time sack list with 62.5.

Eli Manning, QB, Giants, $19,750,000: Three-time Pro Bowl selection; two-time Super Bowl participant; two-time Super Bowl champion; two-time Super Bowl MVP; Giants’ all-time leader in pass attempts, completions, passing touchdowns and passing yards.

Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons, $19,500,000: Three-time Pro Bowl selection; NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year; Falcons’ all-time leader in pass attempts, completions, passing yards and passing touchdowns.

Mario Williams, DE, Buffalo, $19,400,000: Four-time Pro Bowl selection; 91 sacks rank 40th in the NFL all-time.

Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers, $18,250,000: Four-time Pro Bowl selection; Played in one Super Bowl; Super Bowl MVP; two-time NFL MVP.

Matthew Stafford, QB, Lions, $17,721,250: One Pro Bowl selection; Lions' all-time leader in passing attempts, passing yards, passing completions, passing touchdowns.

Peyton Manning, QB, Broncos, $17,500,000: 14-time Pro Bowl selection; two-time Super Bowl participant; one Super Bowl championship; one Super Bowl MVP; 5-time NFL MVP; NFL's all-time leader in touchdown passes.

Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers, $17,416,668: Five-time Pro Bowl selection; NFL passing yards leader in 2010; NFL co-passing touchdowns leader in 2008.