This picture, during happier times, came during a Charlotte Observer photo shoot in Jon Beason's heyday for Carolina.
Jon Beason -- traded for a late-round draft choice?! Shipped out for a pennies on the dollar price?!
It has happened, the Panthers have confirmed -- Beason will go to the New York Giants for a late-round draft choice (what year and what draft choice has not been announced). The linebacker and former first-round draft choice (2007) has passed his physical, though, and is with the Giants.
This would have seemed inconceivable a little more than two years ago. In 2011, Beason was a cornerstone of the Panthers -- a three-time Pro Bowler already. He was Luke Kuechly before Luke Kuechly. Few blinked when general manager Marty Hurney signed him to a five-year, $51.5-million contract extension.
But now.... the sad truth is that the Panthers have been better on defense the past two years when Beason is not playing. Once Kuechly switched to middle linebacker early in the 2012 season following Beason's latest injury, they got better. Once Chase Blackburn was inserted into the starting lineup against the New York Giants in the Panthers' third game and Beason benched, the Panthers got way better, shutting out the Giants, 38-0.
Ironically, it is the 0-4 Giants who then wanted Beason, and the Panthers who were so ready to part ways with him that they will take what would have seemed like a completely lowball offer not that long ago. Not anymore, though -- that GM Dave Gettleman got anything for Beason is a bit of a surprise. Coach Ron Rivera confirmed the trade Friday afternoon, saying Beason talked to him Thursday and said he wanted to be a starter. Gettleman has yet to speak to the media about it.
In the first two games of 2013, Beason was a shadow of his former self, especially in pass coverage. He struggled to find his old speed. He missed tackles.
A torn Achilles in 2011 and knee and shoulder issues in 2012 had limited him to just five games in the 2011 and 2012 seasons, and it was obvious that the knee in particular still gave Beason problems. The shoulder didn't bother him anymore -- he did make a few good stops filling holes in run defense -- but a linebacker without the ability to run is a compromised linebacker. Beason still wanted to start and wasn't happy at all that he got only one snap against the Giants, but it was hard to see the Panthers doing it any differently at that point.
As Beason, 28, told a group of us reporters in August: “The wings are never an issue. It’s the wheels that get you.”
The deal will give Carolina some salary-cap relief, but not that much given that Beason's contract (newly restructured -- he had taken a substantial pay cut already) was going to void after the 2013 season anyway. Beason had been marginalized already -- no longer a team captain and turned into a parttime player.
I will miss No.52 -- always a standup guy in the locker room.
But I also understand why Carolina traded him. He no longer was doing the team much good on the field. In a bottom-line business, Beason -- really through no fault of his own, except that his body let him down -- no longer was producing. I imagine he understands this move, too. Good luck to him in New York.