May 22, 2013
Panthers sign Short to 4-year deal
The Panthers have half of their rookie defensive tackle tandem under contract.
Second-round pick Kawann Short has signed with Carolina, the team announced Wednesday. Short is the first of the Panthers' five picks to sign.
Terms of the deal were undisclosed, but all rookie contracts are four years under the collective bargaining agreement.
In his first draft as the Panthers' general manager, Dave Gettleman took Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei and Short with the first two picks. Short started four years at Purdue, finishing with 19.5 sacks and a school-record eight blocked kicks.
“We are very pleased to have Kawann under contract,” Gettleman said in a release. “We felt he was the best pass-rushing defensive tackle in the draft, and we are excited about what he can bring to our defensive front.”
Lotulelei and Short will be part of a rotation that also includes veteran Dwan Edwards, who re-signed with the Panthers after finishing with a career-high six sacks in 2012.
Tolbert excited for Shula's rushing game plan
Mike Tolbert flashed a smile when he started talking about Panthers offensive coordinator Mike Shula's plan for the running game.
In an interview with Panthers.com, the fullback expressed his pleasure with the first-year Panthers offensive coordinator's desire to get back to a more traditional running game.
"I can't wait," Tolbert said. "Being a running back we rejoiced when he said we're going to run the ball. That's one thing we're going to do is run the ball, so it's something we're really looking for."
Quarterback Cam Newton led the team in rushing with 741 yards with the help of former OC Rob Chudzinski's reliance on zone-read rushing plays in the first half of the season. He was the first quarterback in the NFL to lead his team in rushing since Donovan McNabb a decade earlier.
In his first year with the Panthers in 2012, Tolbert rushed for 183 yards on 54 carries and finished second on the team in rushing touchdowns with seven. He also had 268 receiving yards on 27 catches.
Tolbert told the team's website that both the offense and defense were up-tempo in the first day of organized team activities on Tuesday.
We, the media, won't get to see OTAs until Thursday, and we'll have all your updates here and on Twitter on how these guys look in shorts and helmets then.
May 21, 2013
Lots to look for as Panthers start OTAs
On “Schoolhouse Rock!” three is a magic number.
(The Chiefs do a very cool gameday video of former South Carolina kicker Ryan Succop, featuring the Blind Melon song, by the way.)
But it looks like five is the magic number when it comes to the Panthers' OTA practices.
Surprisingly, there was only one item that appeared on both lists – the competition in the Carolina secondary.
So between the two sites, you have nine things to watch (assuming OTA practices were open to the public, which they're not.)
Anyway, in keeping with the theme, here are five more:
1-The interaction between Mike Shula and Cam Newton. Yes, they've worked together for two years. But this is bigger. How big? Whether Newton continues his development under Shula or stalls will likely decide Ron Rivera's future.
2-Edmund Kugbila, speaking of big. If the fourth-round pick can pick up the offense after playing Division II football, he could challenge Geoff Hangartner at right guard. That seems like a big if.
3-First-year tight end Brandon Williams. I'm a softie for good stories, and Williams – who played basketball at a small Baptist school last winter – has one. Plus, the Panthers need another TE.
4-Morgan Lineberry. The Panthers have cycled through three kickers since cutting John Kasay. Could Lineberry, an undrafted rookie from Abilene Christian, be the fourth?
5-The return game. Newcomers Ted Ginn and Domenik Hixon are proven returners, and sixth-round pick Kenjon Barner has the speed and elusiveness to be an explosive returner, as well.
It's hard to see a spot for Armanti Edwards on this team.
Rookie Lotulelei all grown up from high school days
At his introductory press conference at Bank of America Stadium last month, Star Lotulelei sat at the dais as a poised, humble, mature and (very) large man.
Both head coach Ron Rivera and general manager Dave Gettleman extolled the virtues of not only getting a quality defensive tackle with the 14th overall pick, but also getting a mature 23-year-old who wouldn't succumb to the normal pitfalls that NFL rookies do.
But the same Lotulelei that will take the field today on the first day of organized team activities is not the same one from Utah's Bingham High School, according to this account from the Salt Lake Tribune.
In a column by Kurt Kragthrope, Lotulelei was described by high school coach as being a "lazy student" at one point in high school. The school also instituted what's known as the "Star Rule," raising the minimum GPA needed to play football from 2.0 to 2.5 after he didn't make the cut for BYU.
We've documented Lotulelei's rise from a furniture mover to line mover at Utah in our paper before, but it's always interesting to get a different perspective from those who knew and covered him back then.
May 20, 2013
Lists rank Cam Newton as a top-12 NFL QB
Writers from NFL.com and CBSSports.com have Panthers QB Cam Newton ranked among the best quarterbacks in the NFL.
CBSSports.com's Pete Prisco ranks Newton as the 10th-best QB and 67th-best overall NFL player.
"He really came on strong in the second half when the Panthers used less of the read-option," Prisco writes. "I think he make huge steps last season. Some will say this is too high. Watch."
Sessler ranks Newton as the 12th-best signal caller, putting him in a group labeled "The Future, Part II." Sessler puts Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III in the first group and has Newton with Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson in part two.
"Newton -- entering a huge year three -- sits at No. 12 because his physical tools are insane," Sessler writes. "So much pure ability. Cam can chart his fate, for better or worse."
Both lists rank Aaron Rodgers as the top quarterback in the league, and both have Drew Brees and Matt Ryan--two NFC South foes--ahead of Newton.
Is Newton ranked too high? Too low? Agree or disagree with what the writers have to say? Comment below.
May 17, 2013
The Broncos, Manning's insurance, cap credit and Jon Beason
The Denver Broncos are covering their bases when it comes to a recently injured star and the salary cap.
According to a ProFootballTalk.com report, the Broncos restructured quarterback Peyton Manning's contract in a way that doesn't change the future Hall of Famer's compensation but instead helps the team with the cap in the event of an injury.
Manning is due to make $40 million in guaranteed money split over the next two seasons. The report states the Broncos added an insurance clause to Manning's contract that stipulates if Manning re-injures his neck (he had four surgeries on it in 2011) the contract can then refer to the insurance policy and Denver can receive a cap credit.
How does this work? Let's refer to Article 13, Section 6, Rule IV of the CBA:
In the event that a Club receives a refund from the player of any previously-paid Salary...such amount as has previously been included in Team Salary shall be credited to the Club's Team Salary for the next League Year... [I]nsurance proceeds received by a Team as beneficiary to cover the player's inability to perform services required by his Player Contract shall be deemed a "refund from the player" if (a) the Club or the player purchased the policy (b) the amounts covered by the policy are so specified in the Player Contract; and (c) the policy is made available for inspection upon request by the NFL or the NFLPA.
I've gotten a lot of tweets since the start of the offseason asking if Panthers LB Jon Beason will consider restructuring his deal. Those questions were resurrected Wednesday after the news of RB DeAngelo Williams restructuring his deal with the Panthers.
There are no indications the Panthers have approached Beason about restructuring his contract, which he inked in 2011 as a five-year, $51.5 million deal. Since then he's suffered an Achilles injury that sat him out nearly all of the 2011 season, and shoulder and knee injuries kept him out of three-quarters of last year.
At $8.4 million under the cap, the Panthers aren't under any great pressure to restructure another contract, especially one for a former Pro Bowl linebacker who just lost his starting middle linebacker position.
But an insurance policy on a high-priced, important but recently oft-injured part of your team? Denver just showed it can be done.
May 16, 2013
Quotes and notes from Panthers BP at Knights Stadium
FORT MILL, S.C.--In the newspaper business, sometimes you just run out of space.
I wanted to get in the news of the day along with some notes from the Panthers taking batting practice before the Charlotte Knights-Louisville Bats game Wednesday night. Instead, the news took over, and I ran out of space.
But the internet has infinite space, and here are the notes from last night that Charles Woodson beat out as if they were Peyton Manning in the 1997 Heisman Trophy race.
-As radio voice Bill Rosinski pointed out, if a baseball game happens to break out in the NFC South, the Panthers have a pretty good shot. New Panthers linebacker Chase Blackburn hit back-to-back home runs over the left-field wall in BP last night.
The former Giant finished the night with three homers. Of the 10 Panthers there, only S Haruki Nakamura joined him on the homer list with one.
Blackburn joins a Panthers team with a stout starting linebacking corps with Thomas Davis, Jon Beason and Defensive Rookie of the Year Luke Kuechly. He knows it'll be tough to unseat any one of those players for their spot but said he looks forward to working himself into the rotation.
"I’m happy to be around guys like this," said Blackburn, who added he expects to be a big part of Carolina's special teams units. "Our meeting room is a lot of fun because we know football and we talk a lot of football. I feel like it’s a great meeting room to be a part of it."
He also lived up to his last name on Wednesday. About an hour and a half before he went to the ballpark, he was attempting to plug in a WiFi airport when fire came out of the socket and burned his right bicep.
Blackburn figured it was a faulty wire, but the result left him with a nasty burn the circumference of a baseball. He bandaged the wound and proceeded to lead the team in home runs.
-Panthers coach Ron Rivera showed off his players and fans by switch hitting and throwing the knuckleball to players in BP.
Rivera found the shallow outfield a few times from the left side of the plate and fewer times from the right. But nonetheless, he was able to knock the ball from either side despite it being a while since he picked up a bat.
"I played a little bit of baseball and experimented and had a lot of fun with it," he said. "I was a catcher by trade and you were involved in the game constantly."
Rivera played through high school and even for a spell during his freshman year at Cal. He was on the JV team before football spring training began.
-Panthers right tackle Byron Bell made a late appearance to batting practice. Bell was wearing a throwback Chicago White Sox flatbill hat. He said it was just a coincidence he happened to be wearing the hat of the Knights' MLB affiliate.
Click here for photos from the event.
May 15, 2013
RB DeAngelo Williams restructures contract, Panthers now $8.4 million under cap
Just when it appeared as though 2013 would be DeAngelo Williams' final year in Carolina, the franchise's leading rusher has restructured his contract with the team.
The Observer's Joe Person confirms Williams has restructured his contract in a way that saves the Panthers $3.2 million in cap space in 2013 and potentially $8 million in cap space in 2014 and 2015, the final two years of his deal. The deal was first reported by Yahoo.com.
Williams, scheduled to earn $5 million in 2013 but carrying a cap hit of $8.2 million, will still earn the $5 million, but his cap number will reflect what he earns. His $4.75 million base salary and $250,000 workout bonus for 2013 was converted to an $850,000 base with a $150,000 bonus and a $4 million signing bonus.
That signing bonus is prorated through 2017 after the team stuck two "dummy years" at the end of his contract. Essentially, his contract will void at the end of the 2015 season, and the Panthers will have to account for $2.2 million in dead money in those two years.
The team is now $8.46 million under the 2013 salary cap.
Scheduled to make $13 million in his final two seasons, Williams' restructured contract will earn him $5 million, with the potential to earn up to $750,000 in salary escalators in each of those two years.
The end result: The Panthers could save as much as $8 million in cash while shaving $7 million in cap space in those final two contract years.
Williams inked a five-year, $43 million deal in 2011, but barely into the second year of that deal he saw his role reduced from starter to backup as the Panthers coaching staff handed the keys to Jonathan Stewart.
Quarterback Cam Newton led the team in rushing in 2012, becoming the first quarterback in the NFL to lead his team in that category since Donavan McNabb a decade earlier. And newly added fullback Mike Tolbert accounted for seven rushing touchdowns, the second-most on the team behind Newton.
And the writing on the wall became even clearer in April when the Panthers took Oregon RB Kenjon Barner in the sixth round of the draft. Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Barner could be used as a scat back, which would further reduce Williams' carries and role on the team.
While Stewart struggled with ankle injuries through most of the season, Williams finished last season with 737 yards on 173 carries and five scores.
May 14, 2013
Reggie White honored at Chattanooga high school
The late Reggie White was honored Monday night at his high school in Chattanooga as part of Allstate's "Hometown Hall of Famers" program.
White's father, Charles, presented White's widow, Sara, with a plaque last night at Howard School of Academics and Technology, where Reggie White graduated in 1980.
White played for the Panthers in 2000 in his final season. The 13-time Pro Bowler played in Philadelphia and Green Bay for 14 of his 15 NFL seasons before coming to Carolina. The Hall of Fame defensive end died on Dec. 26, 2004 at the age of 43.
“If Reggie was here he would tell you to make good choices in the classroom and in your every day lives,” said Sara White, according to an article on Chattanoogan.com.
“He would tell you to be disciplined in all aspects of your life, pursue your goals with passion and hang around people who will pull you up, not down.”
More than 600 Howard students, friends and family were in attendance Monday night to honor the two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year. White starred at Howard before going to the University of Tennessee.
White came out of retirement after one year and joined the Panthers in 2000. He started all 16 games for Carolina and tallied 5.5 sacks and one forced fumble.
May 13, 2013
Panthers sign eight tryout players from weekend's minicamp
After clearing some roster room earlier today, the Panthers have signed eight tryout players from this weekend's rookie minicamp to deals.
The No. 1 overall pick in the Canadian Football League Linden Gaydosh is the biggest name of the eight players inked by the Panthers.
Gaydosh, listed as a defensive lineman coming out of the University of Calgary, is listed as a defensive tackle by the Panthers.
The team also added three wide receivers and a tight end. Former Wofford player Brenton Bersin rejoins the Panthers after being on the 90-man roster in training camp last year. Furman's R.J. Webb, who Panthers coach Ron Rivera said made a big catch during the first session of Saturday's practice, and Louisiana Tech's Taulib Ikharo are the other two receivers.
TCU TE Logan Brock and Washburn C Brian Folkerts round out the offensive additions.
Along with Gaydosh, the Panthers added Wisconsin DE Louis Nzegwu and Fresno State LB Ben Jacobs to the team.
The team is also expected to sign Centre College K Jordan Gay.