The Carolina Panthers on Thursday released their veteran pass rusher, Charles Johnson. He has spent nine seasons with the team after they drafted him in the third round of the 2007 NFL Draft. He was tied with Jonathan Stewart for the third longest tenured Panther behind only Thomas Davis and Ryan Kalil.
General manager Dave Gettleman had to make a tough decision cutting a player with that much history with the organization however Johnson was one of the highest paid players on the roster. The Panthers were able to free up $11 million dollars with the move and provides them with much more flexibility this offseason.
However, the move to cut Johnson may not necessarily mean the team doesn't want him on this defense. According to Tom Pelissero of USA Today, the team offered Johnson a pay cut however he obviously didn't accept it and there is still a chance they could bring him back in free agency.
Johnson did have a down year this past year with only one sack in nine regular season games. However, during the playoffs he showed exactly why he is the second in franchise history in sacks with three sacks and two forced fumbles in three postseason games.
The move to bring him back though certainly becomes a little trickier if the Panthers do decide to go that route. While the move to release Johnson did create $11 million in cap space, it also resulted in over $4 million dollars in dead money. This will most likely factor into what kind of contract the team would be willing to offer Johnson.
It also would be safe to say that Johnson would most likely be able to leverage the biggest contract in free agency. The fact that the salary cap increased as much as it did, over $10 million from last year, bodes well for Johnson as he also plays a position that is coveted by many teams.
While it would seem to be unlikely that Johnson ends up back in Carolina, the option seems to be on the table.