It's June 3, so as of yesterday Travelle Wharton's salary is no longer included in the salary cap. I found this article (link here) that clearly explains the impact of yesterday for four teams: Dallas (Terrence Newman), Indy (Gary Brackett), Oakland (Kevin Boss), and Carolina (Wharton)
Each of these players still counted as part of his team's Top 51 until today. That means that when those players' releases became official, they were each replaced by another player in their team’s Top 51. So, the net gain in cap room for each team is not simply equal to the reduction in the released player's cap charge, because another player's base salary begins counting against the team's cap.
Makes perfect sense, but what does it do for the Panthers' salary cap:
Travelle Wharton’s cap charge goes from $7,562,882 to $1,862,882, with $1,862,882 in dead money left in 2013. Wharton is replaced in Carolina’s Top 51 by a player whose base salary is $540,000, so the Panthers have a net gain of $5.16 million in cap room and are now $8,383,625 under the cap.
Read more... after the break
Okay, that's good. The Panthers have signed some FAs and all their draft picks, and we've still got a good chunk of change in the coffer. Keep in mind, though, that the Panthers got a salary cap "bump" for 2012, so instead of trying to work against the $120.6m cap, ours is actually $125.6; so, we're sitting on around a $117.3 cap number right now. There's no real significance to that (as far as I know); just putting it out there for edumacational value.
The new CBA does not impose a hard "floor" per team until 2013, so the Panthers aren't required to spend anything. There is the stipulation, however, that league-wide, teams must pay 99% of the cap, an average of $119.2m. In 2013, a hard floor of 89% of the cap will be imposed for each team.
If you want to see what each player counts against this year's cap, here's a good site (link here). A word of advice... don't look at the line for O. Mare. It will make you need to find a "happy place."
Also of note, when considering D-Will's contract/cap hit, you have to pro-rate his $16m signing bonus which adds $3.2m to the cap for 5 years. But, it also means he's got $21m (less taxes) already in his wallet, so I would hope D-Will would be pretty easily convinced to restructure. He's a good little Panther, after all.
Let's say the Panthers aren't able to strike a deal with Stewart this season. Do you really think they would let him walk for nothing? Not bloody likely. Instead, I think he'd be franchised for 2013. The franchise tender for RBs this year is $7.742 million. Depending on what happens with Forte and Rice, this number may change somewhat for 2013, but it will likely still be less than the $8.45m that D-Will's cap hit is for this year. My point is, re-signing Stewy isn't really an urgent priority. He's not going anywhere unless another team offers a serious premium for his services.