NFL News & Analysis

Carolina Panthers, Taylor Moton beat franchise-tag deadline by agreeing to 4-year, $72M extension

Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers offensive tackle Taylor Moton (72) runs on to the field before the game at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Taylor Moton, one of the NFL’s best young tackles, is signing a lucrative four-year, $72 million contract with the Carolina Panthers, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The deal contains $43 million fully guaranteed at signing, which ties Moton with New Orleans Saints tackle Ryan Ramczyk for the second-most guaranteed money among tackles. However, Moton’s extension is for four years at an average annual value of $18 million compared to Ramczyk’s five-year deal at $19.2 million per year.

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Moton and Philadelphia Eagles tackle Lane Johnson signed identical deals in terms of overall value at four years, $72 million, and it’s hard not to view this deal as something of an overpay. The Panthers let the division-rival Saints extend Ramczyk on his fifth-year option just two weeks prior to the franchise tag deadline for Moton, and they had to back up the Brinks truck as a result. Moton is certainly among the best young tackles in the NFL, and he’ll anchor a Carolina offensive line that desperately needs a premium player leading the way for years to come, but the terms here are very favorable for Moton and company.

Carolina’s offensive line has undergone an overhaul this offseason, and Moton is the one member of the group the team doesn’t need to worry about. He is coming off three straight seasons of 76.9 PFF pass-blocking grades or better, and his overall grade last season was a new high of 81.6. He is the No. 9-ranked tackle in PFF’s offensive tackle rankings as we look toward the 2021 season. The Panthers did their job in keeping hold of a player potentially still in the ascendency in his career.

With a new quarterback in Sam Darnold, the Panthers need to get to work protecting a player whose career has thus far stalled in part because of the lack of support with the New York Jets. On paper, only the New York Giants have a worse offensive line entering the 2021 NFL season, so the Panthers locking up by far the best player within their unit is smart business.

Moton is a former second-round pick out of Western Michigan who has consistently shown himself to be an excellent tackle in the NFL despite the level of competition being a concern of his as a draft prospect.

A well-rounded player, Moton has been a solid pass blocker from Day 1, posting a career pass-blocking efficiency score of 97.8, which would rank inside the top 20 among tackles last season and tied with Trent Williams, who was arguably the best tackle in the league. Last season alone, his efficiency score ranked seventh among all tackles.

Moton has surrendered just 76 total pressures across three years of starting, though he has had a tendency to get beaten badly on occasion. He has allowed his quarterback to hit the ground only 14 times, but 10 of them were sacks. Some of that is the fault of the quarterbacks behind him, though. When removing RPOs, screens and play-action plays — which can warp pass-protection numbers — Moton ranks in the top five in pressure rate allowed (3.3%).

That Moton is a right tackle rather than a blindside pass blocker will cause some to criticize the move, and its value relative to Ramczyk’s recent extension can certainly be questioned. Still, the Panthers’ offensive line needed to retain the one player who guarantees a relatively high level of assured play while they try and piece together a unit that can survive. For that reason alone, Carolina made a solid decision.

Moton’s extension is great news for two players in particular: Minnesota Vikings tackle Brian O’Neill and Indianapolis Colts tackle Braden Smith. The two right tackles taken in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft are heading into the final years of their rookie contracts and could be in line for big-time extensions over the next few months. Smith graded out as the fifth-best right tackle in 2020, with an 80.9 overall mark, and O’Neill was right behind him, recording a 78.0 overall grade (11th). The two will now look to use Moton’s contract framework as a benchmark in negotiations, something that may not have been as practical following Ramczyk’s record-setting deal.

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