Salary Clear-out Underway

<P>The Panthers started clearing salary cap space by releasing four players that Houston passed over in the expansion draft. Among the released, starting cornerback Doug Evans.

Also released are running back Tshimanga Biakabutuka, cornerbacks Jimmy Hitchcock and linebacker Dean Wells.

Evans, 31, came to Carolina as an unrestricted free agent in 1998 and is second on the team's career interception list with 14, including eight last year. He started all 16 games last season and has 55 career starts with the Panthers.

Biakabutuka, 28, was a number one draft choice in 1996.  He has never lived up to expectations, unable to get through a single season without injury.  He blew out his knee early in his first season and needed more than a year of recovery time.  This past season, he missed the last nine games with a broken foot.  Biakabutuka only played in 50 games during his career, starting in 35 of them.  He leaves as the team's leading career rusher with 2,530 yards.

Hitchcock, 31, is from nearby Concord, North Carolina originally.  He's been a part-time starter since signing as an unrestricted free agent in 2000.

Wells, 31, came to Carolina in 1999 as an unrestricted free agent and started 10 games at middle linebacker before moving to outside linebacker, where he has started 17 games the last two years.

"Each of these players have made valuable contributions to the Panthers," says General Manager Marty Hurney. "However, teams have to make difficult decisions when the situation leads in a different direction."

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