Former Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule has filed an arbitration suit with the NFL against the franchise in a dispute over approximately $5 million he claims that he’s owed in severance compensation, according to sources with knowledge of the situation.
Most of Rhule’s remaining guaranteed salary with the Panthers — approximately $35 million, according to sources — has been offset and doesn’t have to be paid because he now has a new job as the head coach at the University of Nebraska.
However, the arbitration suit claims that the Panthers still owe Rhule about $5 million due to the year-by-year difference between what Rhule would have made at Carolina and what he is making now at Nebraska. The Panthers have not been paying Rhule his salary for the past several months, sources said.
The Panthers declined comment on all aspects of the suit. Rhule was fired Oct. 10, 2022, by Panthers owner Dave Tepper after the team started 1-4 in his third season.
Rhule has hired high-profile New York employment litigator John Singer to represent him. Jay Morakis, a spokesman for the matter from M Group Strategic Communications, said he had no comment on Rhule’s arbitration suit.
It is unclear whether the NFL will appoint an arbitrator to hear the case or resolve it by some other method. CBS Sports was the first to report the suit,which was filed last week.
Rhule signed a seven-year contract with the Panthers in January 2020 worth more than $60 million. He was fired by Tepper on Oct. 10, 2022, and was hired by Nebraska two months later, with the Cornhuskers hoping he could turn their program around as he did previously with Temple and Baylor.
Tepper said Tuesday, at the introductory press conference of new coach Frank Reich, that he had made some mistakes in the process of hiring Rhule in January 2020. He also said that he believed it was “a mistake to have a CEO-type head coach,” which is what Rhule was with the Panthers for his 38-game tenure (he went 11-27).
Tepper said of the hiring process that netted the Panthers Rhule vs. the one that produced Reich three years later: “Listen, I’ll self-admit — we could have run a better process last time. And I am learning… With all humility, I could have done better, OK? I’m not saying that Rhule wasn’t a good coach. I’m not saying that. Please don’t interpret it that way. I’m saying I could have run a better process last time. I do believe that. I think this time we were very thorough. I was in every single interview.”
In January 2020, Rhule signed a seven-year contract with the Panthers worth more than $60 million that would pay him an annual base salary of $8.5 million through the 2026 NFL season. The Panthers could argue that Rhule’s contract with Nebraska is actually more lucrative long-term. It’s possible the two sides will also settle the dispute before it goes to arbitration.
On Oct. 10, 2022, just five weeks into Rhule’s third season with the Panthers, team owner David Tepper fired Rhule. He went 11-27 as Carolina’s head coach, including a 1-4 start to the season, while being unable to secure a franchise quarterback in his nearly three years there.
In late November, Rhule accepted the offer to become the next head coach of Nebraska, hoping to turn around the fortunes of the Cornhuskers like he had at Temple and Baylor before jumping to the NFL. Reich’s contract is much shorter than Rhule’s was — it lasts for four years.