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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

Pinch me, I must be dreaming! The Charlotte Observer actually covering the Panthers (other than grass).

Yes Charlotte, there is a newspaper, and Pat is writing for it!

Posted by: Steven | Feb 14, 2007 9:27:54 PM

Could you tutor Rick Bonell?

Posted by: dave | Feb 15, 2007 10:25:36 AM

Hopefully this article clears up that if Keyshawn retires, his cap number just doesn't disappear.

Posted by: Kevin | Feb 15, 2007 11:24:02 AM

I disagree, it is not obvious that Williams is the future at RB. Has everyone forgotten what Foster has done???? At best, he ran behind an average line in the past, in '06 Independence High had a better line than the Panthers. Remember the first time Foster touched the ball in the NFL???? He took it to the house, around the left end for about 65 yards. Remember the Philly playoff game????? He carried half the defense across the goal line. Remember the Super Bowl touchdown run???? Remember the 75 yard run against Atlanta???? I'm not knocking Williams, but the team would be in better shape if they had drafted OT McNeil (Pro Bowl as a rookie in 2006 with Chargers). We need to utilize both backs. The RB position is the least of our troubles.

Posted by: RAY | Feb 15, 2007 11:24:36 AM

How does Rucker get released while he is recovering from the knee injury - doesn't the CBA prohibit that? wouldn't that require some kind of injury settlement?

And on Keyshawn, if he leaves it would be his choice in which case wouldn't he be obligated to repay the remainder of his prorated signing bonus?

Posted by: Rich | Feb 15, 2007 4:06:33 PM

Are you kidding? PLEASE cut Deshaun!!!!! He has done NOTHING except when Davis was loosening up the defense first or when the game was already over. I love what he did as a number 2 for the Cats, but he is waaaaaaay overpaid and shouldn't be a starter in the league.
Cut him, sign a big, strong back to help out DeAngelo and lets get back to the bowl next year.
get Em' Jake!

Posted by: CutDeshaun | Feb 15, 2007 6:41:37 PM

Ok, this is definitely better than the tuff stuff, but way to get in front of the Dan Morgan story. Let me guess, that'll be in next month's news flash/blog update.

Posted by: A little better | Feb 16, 2007 12:56:28 PM

If you want to find out about the Panthers don't sit around and wait on this no talent a$s clown Pat YaSTINKas to tell you, check out the Gaston Gazette. The Gastonia newspaper is more on top of things than the Observer. Pathetic...

Morgan to return to Panthers for league minimum in ’07
by Steve Reed
Gazette Sports Reporter

CHARLOTTE — Concussion-plagued Carolina Panthers middle linebacker Dan Morgan will likely return for another season with the team after agreeing to a restructured contract that includes playing for the NFL veteran minimum base salary this season.

According to NFL Players Association documents, Morgan’s base salary for 2007 is currently listed as $750,000, the minimum salary for a player with six years of NFL experience.

It’s unclear if the deal includes some type of playing time or performance incentives.

Morgan’s agent Drew Rosenhaus refused to comment on the restructured contract, which actually adds a year to Morgan’s current deal by a year, running through the 2010 season. That move is merely designed to spread out the salary cap hit from the signing bonus Morgan received in 2005. Carolina general manager Marty Hurney did not return phone calls, but the team’s policy has always been to not comment on restructured contracts.

The new deal protects the Panthers financially in the event Morgan suffers a sixth career concussion.

After sustaining a head injury last year in the preseason, Morgan returned for the season opener and only to suffer his fifth known concussion in six NFL seasons in a loss to the Atlanta Falcons on opening day. A few weeks later, concussion specialists in Pennsylvania recommended he sit out the season, allowing his head to heal.

Morgan was placed on injured reserve, but was cleared last month to play in 2007.

Morgan might have been waived by the Panthers this offseason. But the new deal likely means he will be back with the team this season, providing he can make it through training camp and the preseason without suffering another concussion.

However, if he’s injured or is cut this summer, the Panthers would not lose any additional money.

Regardless of Morgan’s future status, the team is still on the hook for $3.6 million in signing bonus money — the remaining portion of the signing bonus he received after inking a five-year, $25 million contract extension before the start of the 2005 season.

It’s almost a certainty the Panthers will protect themselves by adding at least one middle linebacker in free agency or in the NFL draft this offseason. Chris Draft, who started 13 games at middle linebacker last year, is an unrestricted free agent.

The restructured deal is also good for Morgan because it affords him an opportunity to prove to the Panthers, as well as the rest of the league, that he has recovered from the series of head injuries and can still play at a high level.

Although he will not receive the $2 million signing bonus he was due to make this April — there was no chance the team was going to give him that money given his history of concussions — Morgan stands a chance to earn significantly more money over the next four seasons if he can stay healthy.

According to the NFLPA, his base salary will jump to $2.85 million in 2008, $4.25 million in 2009 and to $5.38 million in 2010. The move will save Carolina more than $2 million toward next season's salary cap.

“I’m not (hesitant) at all,” Morgan told reporters Jan. 1, the day after the Panthers season ended. “I feel fine. From the outside people are always going to draw their own conclusions about how I feel and what happened. But I feel great. I’ve had a lot of time to heal up. I feel ready to play and I’m excited to come back next season.”

A first-round draft pick out of Miami in 2001, Morgan is an extremely talented player with outstanding speed and ability to run from sideline to sideline.

In Carolina’s Super Bowl XXXVIII loss to the New England Patriots, Morgan had 25 tackles.

Morgan’s problem has never been his skill, but his injury problems. Since coming to the Panthers, he’s never played in a full 16-game season. Last season, Morgan even invested in a $20,000 hyper baric chamber and brought it to training camp, but the experiment failed to prevent another concussion.

Posted by: patblows | Feb 17, 2007 9:51:22 AM

That article by Reed may go down as the worst article in the history of journalism. I find very little there that is fact. Pathetic indeed. No wonder he works in Gastonia.

Posted by: Just WOW | Feb 18, 2007 10:56:11 AM

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