Panthers set to make Kawann Short among highest-paid defensive tackles

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Carolina Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman has been clear since Super Bowl 50 he wants to sign Pro Bowl defensive tackle Kawann Short to a long-term deal.

He said this before he put the franchise tag on cornerback Josh Norman in February and that didn’t change when the tag was rescinded last month.

So it came as no surprise on Monday when NFL.com reported, quoting a source, that negotiations have begun. It would have been a bigger surprise if they hadn’t.

If a deal is to be reached, odds are it will happen before training camp. Gettleman doesn’t like negotiations to interfere with preparation for the season.

So what is Short, a second-round pick out of Purdue in 2013, worth?

Don’t look for it to be in the $19 million a year range as Miami gave defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh in free agency last year.

But Short should be among the top five paid defensive tackles after tying Aaron Donald and Geno Atkins this past season for the most sacks among tackles with 11.

If you’re wondering where that might land his yearly average, it will be somewhere between No. 5 Corey Liuget (San Diego) at $10.25 million and Suh.

It likely will come somewhere between Liuget and Tampa Bay’s Gerald McCoy, ranked No. 3 at $15.8 million a year.

The Panthers are about $31.2 million under the salary cap after rescinding Norman’s $13.952 million tag. That leaves Gettleman plenty of bargaining room, albeit he’s not one to overspend.

But Carolina would have looked to secure Short even if it kept Norman.

Gettleman believes in big men who can rush the passer. He already has secured Star Lotulelei through 2017 by picking up the 2013 first-round pick’s fifth-year option.

He selected Louisiana Tech defensive tackle Vernon Butler with the 30th pick of this year’s draft, giving him as security in case he can’t afford to keep Short and Lotulelei.

Given a preference, the organization likely would take Short over Lotulelei. He hasn’t missed games with injuries as Lotulelei (foot) did at the end of the 2014 season and beginning of the 2015 season.

Short also has proven to be a more disruptive pass rusher with 16 sacks to Lotulelei’s six.

Short has been more of a priority even when the Panthers were discussing a long-term deal with Norman, which obviously never happened.