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Ex-Panthers coach Matt Rhule files arbitration case with NFL seeking money he says team owes him

Current Nebraska head coach had $40 million remaining on deal with Carolina

Nebraska head coach Matt Rhule filed an arbitration case with the NFL to recoup money he says he’s owed by the Carolina Panthers after the franchise fired him during the 2022 season.

According to multiple reports, Rhule filed the suit with the NFL on Jan. 25 and says the Panthers are not paying him the severance money he’s owed via offset. Rhule was hired as Nebraska’s new head coach in November on an eight-year contract worth a total of $74 million.

The former Baylor coach was hired by the Panthers in January 2020 on a seven-year deal worth $62 million. There was approximately $40 million left on that contract when the Panthers fired him in October. Coaching contracts at the college and NFL levels typically contain offset language, meaning that the severance figure is lowered by the amount a coach is making at his next job.

With Rhule set to make approximately $28 million over the first four years of his deal with the Cornhuskers, the Panthers would still owe Rhule roughly $5 million through the original length of his contract with the team.

A Panthers spokesperson declined to comment on Rhule’s filing. Per CBS, the Panthers are going to argue to the NFL that Rhule’s deal with Nebraska violates the league’s anti-tampering clause.

From CBS:

"If the contract with the new club includes a substantial salary increase in new contract years, the Commissioner shall use the following as a guideline to determine the reasonableness of those increases: (i) if annual compensations is scheduled to increase by 20 percent or more for the new contract years, the prior club's annual offset, if that club is entitled to an offset, shall be calculated based upon the employee's average annual compensation during the entire term of contract."

The argument is that Rhule's Nebraska contract has an unreasonable increase of greater than 20 percent when factoring in deferred salary and other benefits. Though the league's anti-tampering policy makes no reference to college coaching jobs, the policy also does not make an explicit distinction as to what it means by "club."

Scott Frost was fired three weeks into the 2022 college football season after Nebraska started the year 1-2. Rhule was fired after the Panthers started the season 1-4. Carolina went 11-27 in his tenure with the team and announced last week that Frank Reich would be the team's new head coach.

Before heading to the NFL, Rhule turned Temple and Baylor into winning programs. The Owls went 2-10 in his first season in 2013 before winning 10 games in his third and fourth seasons with the team. Baylor hired him in the aftermath of the school’s sexual assault scandal and the Bears won one game in his first season. Two years later, Baylor went 11-3 and went to the Sugar Bowl before Rhule was hired by the Panthers.

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - OCTOBER 02: Head coach Matt Rhule of the Carolina Panthers looks on prior to the first half of their game against the Arizona Cardinals at Bank of America Stadium on October 02, 2022 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Matt Rhule was fired by the Carolina Panthers after the team started 1-4 in 2022. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) (Jared C. Tilton via Getty Images)