According to Max Henson of the Carolina Panthers, the team is releasing the nine year veteran. This is a decision that we can all assume was related to his enormous cap hit.
The Panthers have released veteran DE Charles Johnson, who ranks second in team history with 63.5 sacks.— Max Henson (@PanthersMax) March 3, 2016
Panthers General Manager Dave Gettleman spoke bluntly during the combine, work needed to be done in order for Johnson to remain with the team in 2016. No one knows what happened behind those closed doors; if Charles Johnson was even offered a restructure or refused to take a pay cut, your guess is as good as mine. But as of now, the team is moving forward without him.
Even though this is a move that everyone saw coming, it still stings. Charles Johnson has been overpaid for years and he leaves behind a strong base in Short, Star and Ealy on the defensive line, but Charles Johnson was a good man and teammate. After coming on strong with 11.5 sacks in 2010 during his contract's final year, the player who became known as 'Big Money' leveraged his way into a huge 6 year, $76 million contract. Since then he has always been slightly overpaid, but was still a very good defensive end. Over the next four seasons after signing his extension, 'Big Money' averaged over 10 sacks a season and was a pillar of the defense. He was not only a great player, he was a good man. He was quiet, hard working, led by example, and never got in any trouble.
But as time went on injuries have added up and he just wasn't providing the value of a $15 million defensive end. Charles battled multiple lower body injuries in 2014 that limited his effectiveness, and then started just nine games for the Panthers during the 2015 season. He missed seven games while on the injured reserve/designated to return list after suffering a hamstring injury. Johnson recorded one sack in the regular season and tallied three sacks in the Panthers' postseason run. Johnson amassed 63.5 sacks during his nine seasons with the Panthers -- the second-most in franchise history.
This move provides the team with $11 million in cap space while placing $4 million in dead money. For a team that prides itself on its defensive line, this also leaves a major hole. While the defensive line has a strong base in Kawaan, Star, and Kony Ealy, Gettleman will place an emphasis on finding new players to contribute in the trenches. It will be interesting to see where Charles signs for and how much, I look forward to seeing who Dave brings in to replace him. Quinton Coples literally just visited the team, could this be a move to free up cap space to sign the 25 year old defensive end from Carolina? We can only wait and see.