Panthers got creative with Thomas Davis

I was very interested to see the structure of the contract Thomas Davis agreed to with the Carolina Panthers. That’s mainly because the linebacker is attempting a comeback after tearing the same anterior cruciate ligament twice in less than a year.

I knew the deal had to be unique and after getting a look at it, it definitely is. In some ways, you can interpret Davis’ contract as a one-year deal. In others, you could call it a four- or five-year deal.

Technically, Davis already was under contract for this season. Under an obscure rule that existed only in the 2010 uncapped year, Davis’ contract for last season rolled over to this season because he spent all of last year on the physically-unable-to-perform list.

The Panthers didn’t want Davis to feel like a victim of that rule, so they made it a point to extend his contract. It now runs through 2015, but there is protection built into this deal in case Davis can’t come back as something close to the player he was before the injuries.

The Panthers renegotiated Davis’ base salary this year down to $1 million, but they gave him a $7 million signing bonus right up front. That brings Davis’ cap figure down to $2.4 million for this year, after it originally was scheduled to be $3.8 million.

The real key will be how Davis performs this season. If he fares well, he’ll be well paid going forward. If he struggles, Davis probably won’t be with the Panthers next season. That’s because his deal includes an $8 million option bonus for 2012. If the Panthers pay that bonus, they’ll also be paying bigger salaries to Davis down the road.

His 2012 base salary is $2.25 million and it jumps to $4.25 million in 2013. The base figure jumps to $5.75 million in 2014 and $7.25 million in 2015.

Bottom line here is the Panthers have secured their rights to Davis for the short term. If he’s able to fully recover, he’ll be taken care of for the long term.