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February 28, 2007

Gross' contract likely to be reworked

The Panthers probably will have to restructure the contract of offensive tackle Jordan Gross as they get below the salary cap before Friday’s start of free agency.

According to a league source, Gross hit a contract escalator that raises his 2007 base salary from $575,000 to $4.9 million. That pushes Gross’ cap figure to more than $6 million, and the Panthers are likely to attempt to drop that number by converting some of the base salary into bonus money.

Cornerback Chris Gamble also hit an escalator that takes his base salary from $950,000 to $1.08 million.

Posted by Observer Sports on February 28, 2007 at 05:44 PM | Permalink | Comments (31)

February 24, 2007

Morgan must be cleared to play by doctors - and Panthers

As we all know, linebacker Dan Morgan has been cleared medically to play in 2007. And Morgan wants to play.

But the decision might not be up to Morgan or the Pittsburgh-based concussion specialist he's been working with.

This could come down to a decision by the Panthers. Concussions are a hot topic in the NFL. There have been reports that former Philadelphia safety Andre Waters had repeated concussions during his career, and some doctors have said they believe the concussions led to dementia and his eventual suicide.

Former New England linebacker Ted Johnson recently said he was forced to practice too soon after a concussion and, in his mid-30s, he's having trouble remembering names.

Situations like that give rise to all sorts of potential legal implications for teams around the NFL. And, perhaps, ethical implications. Does any NFL coach or owner want something of this magnitude on his conscience?

Only Morgan, his doctor and the Panthers really know the specifics of his condition. And everybody involved - not just Morgan and his doctor - has to sign off on allowing him to play. Sometime in the next week to 10 days, we'll know if the Panthers are comfortable allowing Morgan back on the field.

Posted by Observer Sports on February 24, 2007 at 04:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (14)

February 23, 2007

Dillon a Panther? It might make sense

Just a thought here: But, if the Patriots grant running back Corey Dillon the release he reportedly has asked for, wouldn't it make sense for the Panthers to make a run at the NFL's active leading rusher?

Dillon has ties to new offensive coordinator Jeff Davidson, who used to be an assistant with the Patriots. He's also a proven entity and more of a power runner than anyone the Panthers have. Pairing him with DeAngelo Williams could be a nice combination of power and speed.

Dillon, 32, does have some miles on him. He also had some problems when he was with the Bengals, but has been a model citizen since joining the Patriots. The Panthers also have running back DeShaun Foster, but Dillon could be something to think about.

Posted by Observer Sports on February 23, 2007 at 05:58 PM | Permalink | Comments (16)

February 21, 2007

Panthers might have interest in linebacker Fletcher-Baker

The Panthers have been quietly saying they won’t be major players in free agency. That probably is true, because they’re not going to have much salary-cap space.

But they won’t be entirely inactive, mainly because they can’t afford to sit still after an 8-8 season. Expect them to make a move for a starter or two, and don’t be surprised if they try to make a run at Buffalo free agent linebacker London Fletcher-Baker.

Free agency doesn’t start until March. 2, but there are rumblings that the Panthers are likely to show interest in Fletcher-Baker. There are similar rumblings about Detroit and Washington.

The Panthers can’t really afford to get into a bidding war with Redskins owner Dan Snyder, but there are plenty of reasons why pursuing Fletcher-Baker makes sense.

Let’s assume the Panthers keep often-injured linebacker Dan Morgan – and that’s not a given. The Panthers can’t afford to assume Morgan will stay healthy, so they need a top-notch starter as an alternative.

Using a first-round pick on Mississippi’s Patrick Willis is an option. But there’s no guarantee Willis will last until the 14th pick. More importantly, the Panthers believe they are only a few players away from contending for a Super Bowl, and a play-making middle linebacker is one of those players.

Willis might turn out to be great, but making a rookie the quarterback of their defense might not be something the Panthers want to do. They’re likely to be starting two inexperienced players (James Anderson and Thomas Davis) at the outside linebacker positions.

Putting Willis between them might create a formula for a lot of mistakes. Putting Fletcher-Baker in the middle would bring the kind of experience that could help Anderson and Davis along.

Posted by Observer Sports on February 21, 2007 at 04:24 PM | Permalink | Comments (12)

February 17, 2007

For Jake's sake, write it straight

Ran into a friend who works for Fox network during the Super Bowl in Miami. He shed some light into what happened on that-now infamous day last season when Joe Buck uttered something like, "Terry Bradshaw is reporting that Jake Delhomme has played his last game for the Carolina Panthers."

The real story is this: A script writer made a mistake. Bradshaw, who analyzes, not reports, wanted to make an observation. His point was supposed to be that if Delhomme didn’t start playing better, the Panthers might start looking for a quarterback during the offseason. The script writer got carried away and made the item sound a lot more dramatic than it was supposed to.

It got the attention of coach John Fox and Marty Hurney, who angrily disputed the report. Some folks at Fox also were upset and the script writer got some stern words from his bosses.

Posted by Observer Sports on February 17, 2007 at 06:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)

February 14, 2007

Panthers have moves to make as free agency approaches

Some random thoughts as the Panthers look to get under the salary cap before the start of free agency March 2:

They’re $2.5 million over the cap right now. But, not all the pending credits and incentives are factored into that number. Once that’s in, the Panthers will be right around the $109. million cap and will have to restructure some contracts or release some players to have money to play with in free agency.

Linebacker Dan Morgan might not be as far out the door as a lot of people think. Morgan, who has been cleared to play after a series of concussions, is due a $2. million roster bonus in March. He’s to count $4.5. million against the cap, and the Panthers are on the hook for $3.6. million of that, with or without the bonus. The most logical thing the Panthers can do is ask Morgan to restructure his contract and hope he can stay healthy.

It doesn’t have to come today or tomorrow, but the Panthers have to do something about defensive end Julius Peppers’ contract sometime this offseason. Peppers has a cap figure near $15. million. He’s under contract through 2008, so a simple restructuring is possible. But it makes more economic sense to try to extend his contract sooner, rather than later.

The numbers sure don’t favor defensive end Mike Rucker, who is scheduled to get a $2.35. million bonus. He’s to cost $6.9. million against the cap and he’s coming off a major knee injury. If the Panthers cut Rucker, they’d clear $4.4. million in cap space. Rucker is headed into the last year of his contract, so restructuring him would have to involve a contract extension.

The Panthers better hope receiver Keyshawn Johnson wants to return. They’re already on the hook for $3.75. million in pro-rated bonus money.

There has been quite a bit of speculation about safety Mike Minter, Rucker’s best friend. But, unless the Panthers decide Minter is totally over the hill, it doesn’t make mathematical sense to cut him. The Panthers would free up only $50,000 by doing so. His contract has three years remaining and it would be easy to restructure his contract to clear about $2. million in cap space. Same for cornerback Ken Lucas. The Panthers would take a $4. million cap hit if they released him. Restructuring his deal wouldn’t be very difficult.

There has not been much speculation about running back DeShaun Foster as a potential cap casualty. Maybe there should be, because it’s pretty obvious DeAngelo Williams is the future at running back. The Panthers could clear $3.3. million in cap space by simply releasing Foster. At the very least, they’ll try to restructure his deal.

Posted by Observer Sports on February 14, 2007 at 06:48 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)

February 01, 2007

Panthers' playing surface voted among best

Once again, the playing field at Bank of America Stadium has been voted one of the best in the NFL.

The field the Panthers play on finished second in a survey of players, released Thursday by the NFL Players Association, that rated the league’s best grass surfaces. Only Tampa Bay’s Raymond James Stadium was rated higher. New England’s Gillette Stadium was voted the worst grass surface and Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field was second worst.

Seattle’s Qwest Field was the top-ranked artificial surface. Giants Stadium was voted the worst artificial surface.

Carolina’s stadium consistently has ranked in the top 10 since it opened in 1996.

Posted by Observer Sports on February 1, 2007 at 06:43 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)