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News » Carolina Panthers Strategy and Personnel 2009-02-27


Carolina Panthers Strategy and Personnel 2009-02-27


Carolina Panthers Strategy and Personnel 2009-02-27
The Panthers freed up more salary cap room by restructuring and extending the contract of starting defensive tackle Damione Lewis through the 2014 season.


He had been under contract through 2010.

Lewis was due a $2.5 million roster bonus this year, which the Panthers converted into a signing bonus. The move allowed them to spread out the signing bonus over the length of the contract and save $2 million under this year's cap.

Lewis' base salary for 2009 was reduced from $3.17 million to $2 million. In 2010, his cap figure went from $4.05 million to $755,000. His bases are $1.485 million in 2011, $2.115 million in 2012, $2.745 million in 2013 and $3.375 million in 2014.

It also offsets the increase in pay middle linebacker Jon Beason received for reaching certain escalators in his contract.

Also, linebacker Landon Johnson agreed to restructure his contract saving the team about $1 million under the cap, a league source confirmed.

Johnson was scheduled to count $3.1 million this season under the salary cap and the Panthers would have saved only $1.1 million under the salary cap by cutting him due the prorated portion of his signing bonus.

The move essentially allows the Panthers to keep Johnson and still save the $1 million. It also gives Johnson another year to compete for playing time with the Panthers.

Johnson saw limited action on defense in 2008 and recorded just seven tackles after signing a three-year, $10 million free agent contract with the Panthers. He was widely rumored to be one of the players the Panthers might cut to save money under the salary cap.

It is just one of a handful of moves the Panthers are expected to make to clear room under the salary cap by the start of the new league year on Friday.

The Panthers released running back Nick Goings, offensive lineman Jeremy Bridges and receiver D.J. Hackett on Wednesday opening up approximately $4.5 million under the salary cap.

Bridges' release saved the Panthers approximately $2.375 million, Hackett $1.3 million and Goings $745,000.

TEAM NEEDS/OFFSEASON STRATEGY

Carolina's primary focus will be on adding depth to the offensive and defensive lines. They may even look to find a starter at right defensive end since Julius Peppers' return to the team is uncertain. Peppers wants out but was tagged as the team's franchise player.

It appears all seven remaining unrestricted free agents will hit the market. None are starters. That list includes offensive linemen Geoff Hangartner and Frank Omiyale, linebackers Adam Seward and Donte Curry, defensive tackle Darwin Walker, returner Mark Jones and long snapper Jason Kyle.

TEAM NEEDS

1. Defensive end: It's still uncertain what will happen with franchise player Julius Peppers, but either way the Panthers need to add a pass rusher. It's unlikely another team will sign Peppers to an offer sheet (that would cost them two first-round picks) but it's very possible another team would be willing to work out a deal for less. This might stretch for a few weeks, but if the Panthers do the deal they'd like to have it done before the draft. Even if Peppers stays, the Panthers still need another pass rusher. If he goes, they really need one.

2. Defensive tackle: The Panthers don't have much depth behind starters Damione Lewis and Maake Kemoeatu, so look for them to add a mid-level veteran free agent to the mix. Last year they signed Darwin Walker and Ian Scott. Scott got hurt in training camp and was cut. Walker faded as the season went on and won't be re-signed.

3. Offensive line depth: The Panthers cut Jeremy Bridges on Wednesday (Feb. 26) and with Geoff Hangartner and Frank Omiyale set to explore the free agent market the Panthers have lost their depth on the O-line. They will look to add a few younger players here and they did draft two guys last year in the seventh round -- tackle Geoff Schwartz and guard Mackenzy Bernadeau -- although neither played in 2008.

FRANCHISE PLAYER: DE Julius Peppers: Tendered at $16.683M.

TRANSITION PLAYER: None

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS:

--LB Donte Curry is a moderate special teams player who can be had on the cheap.

--OG Geoff Hangartner is Carolina's top reserve linemen. The versatile Hangartner is a player the teams wants to keep but he'll almost certainly explore the free-agent market and land elsewhere. Carolina's starting five is set and Hangartner has a chance to go somewhere else and start right away.

--KR
Mark Jones is a quality reliable returner the team would like to have back. But they have other options in Ryne Robinson and Jason Carter.

--LS Jason Kyle is an extremely reliable long snapper who the team would like to have back. But he might test the market.

--OT Frank Omiyale started one game at left tackle for the Panthers and did well. With Jordan Gross and Jeff Otah ahead of him, Omiyale knows his chances of starting here depend solely on injuries to the players ahead of him. That might prompt him to explore the market and look for a place to compete for a starting job.

--LB Adam Seward wants out of Carolina and would like to play in a 3-4 defense - or simply play on defense.

--DT Darwin Walker was inactive for the team's playoff game against Arizona despite having more playoff experience than any player on the roster, so that should tell you all you need to know about his chances of returning to Carolina.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered)

--WR Jason Carter (not tendered as ERFA).

--DT Gary Gibson (not tendered as RFA) was a backup tackle last year and went on IR late in the season with a hand injury.

--DT J'Vonne Parker (not tendered as ERFA) joined the team late in the season due to injuries.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

--LB James Anderson (tendered at $1.01M with third-round pick as compensation) has contributed little other than on special teams.

--TE Jeff King (tendered at $1.545M with second-round pick as compensation) has been a three-year starter.

--S Nate Salley (tendered at $1.01M with fourth-round pick as compensation) hasn't played all that much but the Panthers still like his game.

EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS

--DT Nick Hayden actually started toward the end of his rookie season in 2008 after getting cut in training camp. The team likes him and he'll be back.

--CB C.J. Wilson is a guy the Panthers really like and he could wind up being the No. 3 or 4 cornerback in 2009. The team may cut Ken Lucas, which would allow Wilson to move up the depth chart. He's a former safety with good cover skills.

PLAYERS RE-SIGNED

--OT Jordan Gross: Potential UFA; 6 yrs, terms unknown.

PLAYERS ACQUIRED

--QB Brett Basanez: FA; 2 yrs, terms unknown.

PLAYERS LOST

--OG Jeremy Bridges (released).

--RB Nick Goings (released).

--WR D.J. Hackett (released).



Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: February 27, 2009

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Julius Peppers Name: Julius Peppers
#90
Position: DE
Age: 28
Experience: 7 years
College: North Carolina
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