Kawann Short has to be Panthers' free-agent priority, but who's next?

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Defensive tackle Kawann Short made it clear on Monday he wants to remain a member of the Carolina Panthers. So did defensive ends Mario Addison and Charles Johnson.

Offensive tackle Mike Remmers wants to stay with the organization that gave him his break at right tackle in 2014, as well.

Wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. told reporters as he cleaned out his locker, “I’m a Panther until I ain’t a Panther no more.’’

The Panthers have until Feb. 14 to sign their 15 players set to become unrestricted free agents. Not all will return. It never happens that way.

Signing Short to a long-term deal has to be the top priority for general manager Dave Gettleman, who tried to get a contract done prior to this season.

Whether his price tag will drop after a season in which Short had six sacks following a 2015 Pro Bowl season in which he led the team with 11 remains to be seen.

If not, Gettleman likely would use the franchise tag on Short. Coach Ron Rivera still considers the 2013 second-round pick one of the best tackles in the league.

Rivera wouldn’t comment on a pecking order for his free agents, saying only “a lot of guys are priorities.’’

“When it comes to the contracts and stuff like that, we’ll let Dave and his staff handle that,’’ he said.

Carolina’s general manager will address the media on Tuesday at 10 a.m. He’s not one to discuss contracts or strategy, so here’s a closer look at the players on which he’ll have to make decisions:


Offense (5)

OT Mike Remmers: Remmers really wants to remain at Carolina. But at 27, this is his one and only chance at a big deal. The price tag could get too high for the Panthers if other teams look at him as a viable option at left tackle, where he played the final 13 games after Michael Oher went into the concussion protocol. Remember, Oher is under contract through 2019 and Daryl Williams proved he can handle the right tackle duties.

OG Chris Scott: The Panthers like his versatility as a guard-tackle-center. Shouldn’t come at a high price.

OL Ryan Wendell: Journeyman on the roster for depth after starting center Ryan Kalil and backup Gino Gradkowski suffered season-ending injuries. Both will be back. Wendell probably won’t be.

RB Fozzy Whittaker: The Panthers like him as a third-down back and kick returner, and Rivera mentioned perhaps getting more out of him next season. His price tag won’t be high.

WR Ted Ginn Jr.: Ginn showed he still has the speed to be a valuable deep threat at age 31. He’s also valued as a punt returner. Just a matter of finding the right deal.

Defense (10)

DT Kawann Short: He can be as disruptive as any player in the middle. The Panthers can’t afford to lose him.

DE Charles Johnson: Rivera called Johnson, 30, his most consistent end this season and wants him back even though injuries have been an issue the past few seasons. Johnson, a team captain, wants to stay in Carolina. So if he’s willing to accept another bargain like he did last year (one year, $3 million) he should return.

DE Mario Addison: The decision on Addison, who led the team in sacks with a career-high 9.5, will be interesting. He’s 29 (the same age as cornerback Josh Norman last year) and will be 30 during the first month of the 2017 season. He’s been used primarily as a situational player much of his five seasons with Carolina, but on Monday Rivera referred to him as a “complete end.’’ If another team offers Addison money as a full-time starter, look for the Panthers to move on to developing a younger option.

DE Wes Horton: A solid run-stopper who improved as a pass-rusher over the second half of the season. Won’t be in high demand.

DT Kyle Love: At 30, Love probably has played his last game for the Panthers, who brought him back this season because of injuries.

LB A.J. Klein: He earned praise for replacing middle linebacker Luke Kuechly for six games, but his snaps dropped from 74 six games ago to six in the season finale. The future is second-year player David Mayo, who with seven tackles in the finale showed he can play Klein’s role. That makes Klein expendable.

CB Teddy Williams: He'll be back only if the Panthers want to keep him for depth.

CB Leonard Johnson: Coaches like him as a nickelback. Quarterback Cam Newton likes him as a close friend. “I don’t know if he’s got influence on it,’’ Johnson said with a laugh. “I know my tape does.”

S Michael Griffin: He was signed during the season because of injuries, but at 31 it’s unlikely he’ll be back thanks to the development of Tre Boston.

S Colin Jones: Jones is a top special teams player, so look for him to return in that role.


WR Philly Brown

WR Brenton Bersin

WR LaRon Byrd

OG Andrew Norwell

LB Ben Jacobs