Matt Rhule buyout: How much do Carolina Panthers owe former head coach?

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - SEPTEMBER 25: Head coach Matt Rhule of the Carolina Panthers reacts after a play against the New Orleans Saints during the third quarter at Bank of America Stadium on September 25, 2022 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - SEPTEMBER 25: Head coach Matt Rhule of the Carolina Panthers reacts after a play against the New Orleans Saints during the third quarter at Bank of America Stadium on September 25, 2022 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) /
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Now that the mercy of the football gods has been enacted, all attention turns to the tricky Matt Rhule buyout situation. 

One of the least surprising firings in the NFL finally happened on Monday. The Carolina Panthers proverbially brought Matt Rhule out to see the ocean one last time and promptly fired him after just 38 games.

There’s a lot to unpack here, which is perhaps the most surprising thing about this whole situation. No one — not even Rhule — should be shocked that this happened, but the ordeal is only just beginning to unfold.

The matter of Matt Rhule’s buyout now takes centerstage, both because it’s an open-ended situation and also objectively hilarious. Carolina drew the ire of NFL owners when it handed Rhule an obnoxiously massive contract back in 2020, signing him to a seven-year, $62 million contract.

In that time, Rhule cycled through three offensive coordinators, got rid of Cam Newton, gave Teddy Bridgewater $63 million, Sam Darnold $18 million, re-signed Cam Newton before then letting him go again, and then traded for Baker Mayfield. All of that amounted to 11 wins, weird quotes about how football works, and a fanbase that has completely lost faith and interest in the Panthers.

Matt Rhule Buyout: How much is he owed from the Panthers?

Buckle up for this one: The Carolina Panthers reportedly owe Matt Rhule $40 million as part of his buyout.

It’s not all bad news, and the reason he was fired now likely has less to do with his performance (even though that’s very much a part of it) and more to do with how the Panthers can lower the total amount they owe him.

Simply put, the Panthers are hoping Rhule returns to College Football — a move that seems almost certain to happen.

Ian Rapoport reported that last year Rhule turned down a handful of jobs in college in order to return to Carolina for one more shot at getting it right.

Rhule is going to be a top candidate in the upcoming college football hiring cycle. Some of the most notable jobs in the country at some of the highest-profile schools are already available with more expected to open in the coming weeks. Rhule has already been linked to the Nebraska job after Scott Frost was fired at the start of the month, and there are openings as Arizona State and Wisconsin as well. The belief is that the Auburn job will open up soon and there could be movement with Matt Campbell at Iowa State which would make another job available for Rhule.

The point is, Rhule’s unemployment won’t last long. This is less of a traditional firing and more of a mercy kill that sets both parties up to benefit from an otherwise terrible situation. Carolina is rooting for Rhule to get a college job because his salary at his new job would offset the money they owe him as part of the buyout.