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News » Carolina Panthers Inside Slant 2009-02-28


Carolina Panthers Inside Slant 2009-02-28


Carolina Panthers Inside Slant 2009-02-28
Don't look for the Carolina Panthers to be a major player in free agency, at least early on.


Aside from the fact the Panthers don't have all that much money to spend comparative to teams like Tampa Bay, they have -- at least at this point -- all 22 starters from last year under contract, although that could change depending on what happens with defensive end Julius Peppers and cornerback Ken Lucas.

General Manager Marty Hurney said he likes that the core of the Panthers team is intact heading into the 2009 season.

And while he wouldn't directly admit the Panthers will be a non-player early in the free agent market, his tone seemed to indicate that might be the case with the focus being on developing the players they have and continuing to build through the NFL draft.

"You look at our situation and we've got our starters back from last year, a good part of our nucleus back," Hurney said. "We've got a good young core that's either in or heading into their second contracts. I think it's a good situation to be in. The focus is to try to keep those good young players as far as extending players now and putting yourself in position to extend in the future, and on drafting well... Our philosophy is to keep your nucleus, re-sign your core players and draft well."

The Panthers spent a ton of money last week to re-sign offensive tackle Jordan Gross to a six-year, $60 million contract while also using the franchise tag on Julius Peppers. Peppers is due to cost $16.683 million under the salary cap if he stays.

Lucas is another question mark.

Hurney was reluctant to talk about Lucas' future.

"Ken is here at this point," Hurney said Wednesday. "I'm not going to get into what we're going to do, but what we've done. That is really what I want to talk about.... We're always working on things, but I would rather comment on what we have done at this point because anything else is speculation."

Lucas has a cap figure of more than $9 million in 2009 and the team could save more than $2.3 million by releasing him.

If he's cut, two-year backup Richard Marshall would start.

The team released three players -- offensive lineman Jeremy Bridges, wide receiver D.J. Hackett and running back/special teamer Nick Goings - and restructured the contracts of defensive tackle Damione Lewis and linebacker Landon Johnson.

Altogether, that freed up about $7.5 million in cap room.

"Every year this time of year you have difficult decisions to make," Hurney said. "We're just at a point where your team takes a different look every year. We'll have a different look this year as far as our depth goes in some areas. It's just decisions that we had to make."



Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: February 28, 2009

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