Kawann Short stays true to his word, avoids Josh Norman situation

Kawann Short signed a five-year, $80 million deal on Monday, keeping him with the Panthers through 2021. Grant Halverson/Getty Images

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers defensive tackle Kawann Short didn’t hesitate when asked how he planned to celebrate his five-year, $80 million contract, which ranks among the top five at his position.

"Go downstairs and work out," the 2015 Pro Bowl selection said Monday from an upstairs office at Bank of America Stadium. "I missed my workout time this morning, so I’ve got to make it up in the next couple of hours."

This speaks volumes about why the Panthers wanted to lock Short into a long-term deal.

This speaks volumes about Short.

He insisted after the season that his situation wouldn’t turn into what happened a year ago with Pro Bowl cornerback Josh Norman.

Norman never signed the franchise tag and didn’t report for the start of offseason workouts, using that as leverage to get a long-term deal.

That led to a breakdown in communication between Norman’s representation and the Panthers. And that led Norman to hire a new agent after the tag was rescinded.

If he didn’t have a new deal, Short was willing to sign his tag before offseason workouts began on Monday. He made it clear he didn’t want to become the distraction that Norman’s situation had created.

The Panthers rewarded Short with a deal that makes him the third-highest-paid defensive tackle in the NFL behind Miami’s Ndamukong Suh ($19.06 million) and Philadelphia’s Fletcher Cox ($17.1 million).

"The communication between us and upstairs [management] was unbelievable," Short said. “It just happened at the right time."

It happened at the perfect time.

Carolina’s offseason already has been interrupted by quarterback Cam Newton’s surgery to repair a partially torn rotator cuff (it will keep him from throwing with the team until training camp).

The last thing the Panthers needed was another distraction like Norman’s.

"I didn’t want to go that route," Short said. “[Josh is] still my guy. I talk to him a lot. But I just knew it wasn’t going to go that route."

Obviously neither did the Panthers.

They didn’t let this drag out until July 15, the deadline for signing franchise tag players to a deal. They came to terms with a player whose ability to pressure the quarterback up the middle is critical to the success of the defense.

For Short, the ultimate goal aside from winning the Super Bowl is "to be the best defensive tackle."

Norman’s goal was to be the top paid cornerback in the NFL. He ultimately received that payday from the Washington Redskins, who gave him a five-year, $75 million deal that Carolina general manager Dave Gettleman didn't.

Short could have held out for more, but being the top paid tackle wasn’t his ultimate goal. The goal was to stay with the Panthers, who selected the former Purdue star with the 44th pick (second round) of the 2013 draft after taking defensive tackle Star Lotulelei with the 14th pick that year.

"From day one they believed in me," Short said. “From the NFL combine to the private workouts to even having conversations with a lot of people on the staff before draft day. These guys took a chance on me. I had plenty of teams pass me up. Just to be able to commit to somebody who committed to me -- you can’t ask for anything better."

This personifies, from team owner Jerry Richardson down to head coach Ron Rivera, the kind of character the Panthers say they look for in a player.

While Norman was playing for Carolina, he also was somewhat of a loose cannon on and off the field because of his outgoing and sometimes boisterous personality.

Short is more soft-spoken, letting his play speak for him. He never negotiated his deal in the media.

"He’s a great player but also a quality young man who has the respect of his teammates in the locker room," Rivera said. "He’s everything we’re looking for in a Panther."

Now that Short is signed, the Panthers can focus on a long-term deal for Lotulelei. The two would give the Panthers among the best set of tackles in the league for the next few years.

Throw in 2016 first-round pick Vernon Butler, and Carolina also might have the best depth at tackle in the NFL.

Then the focus would be on finding a long-term solution at defensive end. Free-agent signees Julius Peppers (37) and Charles Johnson (30) are short-term solutions at this point in their careers.

In all likelihood, the Panthers will select an end to develop in the draft, whether that comes with the eighth overall pick and a player like Tennessee’s Derek Barnett or Alabama’s Jonathan Allen or in a lower round.

But getting Short’s deal done definitely was a priority. Getting it done this early was a bonus.

Now Short can focus totally on his offseason workouts -- and buying a house he’d been putting off.

"I never bought one because I couldn’t find one from one of the areas I wanted in," he said. "So hopefully, with the pricing and all that, hopefully things change."