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June 30, 2009

Smith cuts ties with youth group

Panthers receiver Steve Smith has ended his participation in the Charlotte organization Athletes United For Youth, his agent said Tuesday. "Due to Steve's responsibilities with his family and other professional obligations, his off-field time is limited," agent Derrick Fox said in an email.
Smith had been involved in the organization with former basketball players Dell Curry and Jay Bilas. -- David Scott
-- The Panthers waived rookie linebackers Mike Juergens and Brit Miller on Tuesday. -- D.S. 

Posted by Observer Sports on June 30, 2009 at 07:54 PM | Permalink | Comments (19)

June 29, 2009

Kyle signs with Saints

Free-agent long-snapper Jason Kyle, who figured to be a casualty of the Panthers' tight salary cap situation this offseason, has signed with the New Orleans Saints.

The reliable Kyle didn't miss a game in his eight seasons with the Panthers and has also been the team's player representative. He played in 128 games for the Panthers, seventh most in team history.

"I talked a lot to (general manager) Marty (Hurney) and the coaches and they said they wanted to keep me," said Kyle. "But they said they couldn't do anything."

The Panthers have little room under the salary cap after taking care of two other prominent free agents -- offensive tackle Jordan Gross and defensive end Julius Peppers.

"Because of that, I'm sure, I never got an offer from them," said Kyle.

Hurney wasn't available for comment late Monday night.

Kyle will likely be replaced by J.J. Jansen, whom the Panthers acquired from the Green Bay Packers earlier this year. Jansen, in his second season out of Notre Dame, didn't play last year for the Packers because of a knee injury. He was picked up by Green Bay as an undrafted free agent. -- David Scott


Posted by Observer Sports on June 29, 2009 at 10:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (22)

June 26, 2009

Panthers sign draft pick Goodson

The Panthers announced the signing today of fourth-round draft pick Mike Goodson, a running back/kick returner from Texas A&M. He is the third of the team's draft picks to sign. The Panthers are high on Goodson's game-breaking potential as a situational running, receiver and possible kickoff returner.

-- David Scott

Posted by Observer Sports on June 26, 2009 at 03:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (30)

Fourth-rounder Fiammetta signs

Fullback Tony Fiammetta, the Panthers' fourth-round pick in last spring's NFL draft, has agreed to a four-year deal with the team, according to his agent.

Fiammetta, who played at Syracuse, was considered to be perhaps the best fullback prospect in the draft. He's the second rookie signed by the Panthers, with defensive back Captain Munnerlyn (seventh round) of South Carolina agreeing to terms earlier this week. -- David Scott

Posted by Observer Sports on June 26, 2009 at 01:38 PM | Permalink | Comments (13)

Delhomme, Beason: Welcome back, Julius

If the reaction of two Panthers leaders is any indication, defensive end Julius Peppers can expect a warm reception from his teammates when training camp begins in early August.

"Not surprised at all about Julius," quarterback Jake Delhomme said by text message about the news that Peppers had signed a one-year tender with the team on Wednesday. "All of us will be elated he will be present on the first day of camp."

Linebacker Jon Beason writes on his blog that he feels the same way:

"We’re glad to have JP back and I think he’s happy, too. In some ways that’s the way I expected the procedure to unfold. The Panthers would have had to trade him for lesser value because his value is through the roof. A team would have had to give up several high draft picks and then pay him close to $100 million, so it’s a double edged sword.

"It’s been great getting to know Pep as a person the last few years and to see him play in games is unbelievable. He’s such a specimen, such as freak, he’s so gifted and talented it’s unbelievable. He’s definitely the most talented lineman I’ve ever seen and maybe the most talented player." -- David Scott 


Posted by Observer Sports on June 26, 2009 at 12:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (31)

June 25, 2009

Long-term deal could be next for Peppers

Peppers Recent face-to-face meetings with Carolina Panthers officials not only led defensive end Julius Peppers to decide to sign his contract tender to play for the team this season, but also resulted in him becoming open to their long-stated desire to sign him to a long-term extension.

Peppers' agent, Carl Carey, told the Observer late Wednesday night that Peppers was satisfied with the contract tender he signed (which could be worth a mind-boggling $19.183 for the 2009 season), but also was willing to consider a more permanent arrangement.

"Julius has always had tremendous respect for the individuals in the organization, and he had the opportunity to sit down face-to-face and talk with people he's had great respect for," said Carey. "Sometimes it takes a discussion to begin to understand each other's perspectives."

Carey's comment illuminated a statement he released earlier in the day from Peppers. Peppers said in the statement that he'd had "positive and productive discussions" with the team and was "optimistic and focused as I look forward to the upcoming NFL season."

This all amounts to a dramatic about-face for Peppers, who in January said he thought he had reached his full potential in
Carolina and preferred to play for another team next season. The Panthers blocked him from becoming an unrestricted free agent by placing their franchise tag on him, and the blockbuster trade he sought never materialized.

So, after five months of waiting for the Peppers' situation to work in their favor, the Panthers now have a three-week window to negotiate with him. NFL teams with franchise players have until July 15 to sign those players to a long-term contract extension. If the Panthers miss that deadline, they would have to wait until after the '09 season to resume negotiations.

Carolina’s other options if a deal doesn’t get completed quickly would be to allow Peppers to leave as an unrestricted free agent next February (highly, highly unlikely) or franchise him again with a franchise tender of slightly more than $20 million – an almost unfathomable number.

A long-term deal would give the Panthers substantial salary cap relief heading into next season, allowing them room to sign their rookies and perhaps add some veteran depth.

Peppers currently counts $16.683 million against their cap -- the amount of his guaranteed base salary under the tender offer they made him as their franchise player. He also could earn up to an extra $2.5 million in incentives that carry over from his previous contract -- $1.5 million if he's selected to the Pro Bowl and $250,000 for every playoff win up to and including the Super Bowl.

If the Panthers franchise Peppers against next February, he'd be due a one-year contract tender with a 20 percent raise, according to the NFL collective bargaining agreement. That would move his salary to just over $20 milliion plus the same incentives as this year.

Thus, It would seem to behoove the Panthers to pounce on Peppers while he's finally open to signing a long-term deal. They've tried unsuccessfully to sign him to an extension for more than two years. He previously turned down Carolina's offer to make him the NFL's highest paid player.

They'd almost certainly still have to provide that distinction again, meaning they'd have to better the three-year, $45.3 million contract the Oakland Raiders gave cornerback Nnamdi Osomugha and the seven-year, $100 million deal Washington
gave defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth.

As astronomical as those contracts may seem, they'd be dwarfed by the nearly $37 million in base salary the Panthers would pay Peppers if they franchise him for the next two consecutive seasons. While Osomugha's deal averages $15.1 million per season, most ever for a defensive player in a multi-year deal, franchising Peppers twice in a row would cost the Panthers an average of around $18.5 million per year -- minus incentives.

Among reasons Peppers could be more inclined to agree to an extended stay with the Panthers: There's a new defensive coordinator in Ron Meeks and a new defensive line coach in Brian Baker. Though Peppers never complained about their prececessors (Mike Trgovac and Sal Sunseri, respectively), the defensive changes being made could offer him hope of coming closer to reaching his full potential in Carolina.

So it could  be a much busier-than-usual summer for the Panthers after this latest twist in the Peppers saga.

-- Charles Chandler

Posted by Observer Sports on June 25, 2009 at 07:52 AM | Permalink | Comments (55)

June 24, 2009

Statement from Julius Peppers

Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers released this statement today after signing a one-year contract tender with the team worth $16.683 million in guaranteed base salary and up to $2.5 million more in incentives:

"I have signed the franchise tender and am now under a one-year contract with the Carolina Panthers.  Recently, I've had positive and productive discussions with the organization.  I am optimistic and focused as I look forward to the upcoming NFL season."

That should settle the issue of whether or not Peppers will report to the Panthers training camp on time.

-- Charles Chandler

Posted by Observer Sports on June 24, 2009 at 03:23 PM | Permalink | Comments (43)

UPDATED: Peppers signs offer sheet, to play for Panthers

The Panthers announced this afternoon that defensive end Julius Peppers has signed his offer sheet and will play for the team this season. A conference call has been scheduled for this afternoon.

Peppers' agent, Carl Carey, told the Observer that : "Julius is more than satisfied with the outcome and is prepared and ready to play football."

Carey said a statement from Peppers was forthcoming in which Peppers said he'd had "positive and productive" conversations with the Panthers and that he was "optimistic" about the upcoming season.

Peppers will be perhaps the highest paid player in the league with a contract that could pay him up to $19.183 million this season.  He has a guaranteed $16.683 million base salary -- the amount of his offer sheet as a franchise free agent -- plus an incentive of $1.5 million if he makes the Pro Bowl and $250,000 per each playoff win up to and including the Super Bowl.

The incentives carry over from Peppers' contract from last season.

Peppers has a one-year contract. If the Panthers franchise him again next year, they'll have to make him a tender offer of around $20 million and a total deal, counting incentives, worth more than $22 million.

More on this soon.

-- Charles Chandler

Posted by Observer Sports on June 24, 2009 at 02:32 PM | Permalink | Comments (25)

June 09, 2009

Summer school notes from Tuesday

Middle linebacker Jon Beason said he hasn't heard directly yet from close friend Dan Morgan about Morgan's decision this week to retire from the New Orleans Saints.

Morgan, a former Panthers' standout, couldn't shake the injury bug and decided it was time to move onto a post-football career. As good as Morgan was when healthy, Beason said he thinks Morgan's talents are underappreciated because of recurring injuries.

(x) Rookie defensive end Everette Brown is getting an education on facing bigger offensive tackles because he goes agaiinst Carolina right tackle Jeff Otah in practice. It's a classic matchup of a smaller speed end going against a huge, mauling tackle and should make for some great training camp matchups once full-contact drills in pads commence.

Brown (6-1, 256 pounds) is five inches shorter and weighs more than 70 pounds less than Otah (6-6, 330). It's a size mismatch he'll face frequently in the NFL, but he'll have a quickneess advantage. Also, Otah said Brown is much stronger than he looks.

-- Charles Chandler

Posted by Observer Sports on June 9, 2009 at 11:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (30)

June 08, 2009

Vincent likes new backs

Panthers guard Keydrick Vincent says he's mighty impressed with three rookie running backs -- fourth-round pick Mike Goodson and undrafted free agents Jamal Lee and Markus Manson --  vying to serve as backups behind DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart next season.

Vincent said he's impressed with the talent of all three backs and that each of them have been hitting holes nicely during summer school sessions.

"They brought in some thoroughbreds," he said of the front office. "They're still in shorts (and not pads), but they're hitting everything. It's going to make my job a little easier."

-- Charles Chandler


Posted by Observer Sports on June 8, 2009 at 08:43 PM | Permalink | Comments (11)