A look at the linebacker position in my series on where the money is for the Carolina Panthers:
Total position spending: $11,401,852
Spending vs. league average: 28
Analysis: This really looks like a bargain when you consider the Panthers are paying the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year only $3.4 million under the cap. Not that middle linebacker Luke Kuechly won't demand a big raise when his 2012 rookie contract expires, but when you consider the Panthers had one of the league's top linebacker corps last season and are ranked 28th in the league in spending at that position this definitely is a bargain. Trading Jon Beason to the New York Giants last season helped immensely. The final years of Beason's five-year, $51.5 million deal signed in 2011 and restructured last season to save more than $4 million voided after the 2013 season. Signing Beason's replacement, Chase Blackburn, to a value deal also helped. Having an up-and-coming star in A.J. Klein for just over half a million doesn't hurt, either. That Thomas Davis returned to top form after coming back from ACL surgery on his right knee for the third time and was willing to restructure his deal might have been the biggest factor. Davis basically cut his cap number in half coming off the best season of his career. His number, as well as the numbers of Kuechly and others, will grow after this year. For now the Panthers have not only one of the best corps of linebacker in the NFL, but one of the league's best position bargains.