Austin Duke

Panthers Reduce Roster To 53

The Panthers trimmed their roster to 77 players yesterday, and it appears that they’ve reached the 53-man limit today (via Max Henson of Panthers.com):

Waived:

Released outright (vested veterans who are not subject to waivers):

Placed on IR:

Panthers Notes: Newton, Gano, Cotchery

Christian McCaffrey will be catching passes from Cam Newton this weekend and next, the Panthers rookie running back told the NFL Network’s Alex Flanagan (via NFL.com’s Jeremy Bergman). It will mark a key step in Newton’s recovery from offseason shoulder surgery. The seventh-year quarterback threw his first passes of the offseason late last month and looks to be attempting to ramp up his activity in the days leading up to the Panthers’ training camp, which begins July 26. Newton underwent surgery to repair a partially torn rotator cuff in late March. Since, the Panthers added McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel in the first two rounds of the draft and picked up Charles Johnson and Russell Shepard in free agency.

Here’s the latest coming out of Charlotte as the NFC’s 2015 Super Bowl representative attempts to mount a resurgence after a rough follow-up season.

  • Graham Gano underwent surgery this offseason to repair a broken bone in his plant foot, according to Jourdan Rodrique of the Charlotte Observer. The 30-year-old kicker missed eight field goals last season, his most since missing 10 with the 2011 Redskins, and the Panthers drafted Harrison Butker in the seventh round to compete. Out of Georgia Tech, Butker is the first kicker the Panthers have drafted in their 23-year history. Ron Rivera said he planned to bring in competition for Gano this offseason, and while he did, Rodrique expects Gano to be the Panthers’ kicker for a sixth season.
  • Although Michael Oher plans to attend camp, the Panthers have not provided much to suggest he is in the team’s plans, Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer notes. Person also predicts the Panthers will sign Mike Adams after making the decision to cut Oher. A former Steelers starter, Adams last played with the Bears in 2016. Since the Bears placed Adams on IR in December, nothing’s emerged involving the 27-year-old tackle.
  • Person expects Matt Kalil to take a step back toward his Pro Bowl rookie season of 2012. While the writer doesn’t believe Kalil will get back to Hawaii, he believes the five-year, $55MM deal won’t become a sunk cost. Kalil’s recovered from 2016 hip surgery, per Person, and obviously has his brother as a key sounding board now that he’s landed in Charlotte.
  • Jerricho Cotchery is now working as an assistant wide receivers coach with the Panthers, with whom he played from 2014-15. The Panthers hired him this offseason, C. Jackson Cowart reports for the Charlotte Observer, and this season stands to be the 35-year-old’s first year of coaching. Cotchery played 12 NFL seasons — with the Jets, Steelers and Panthers — and carved out roles on seven playoff teams.
  • One of Cotchery’s charges this offseason, UDFA wideout Austin Duke faces an uphill battle to make the Panthers’ roster. However, he did draw interest from the Falcons as a post-draft free agent, but he opted to sign with the Panthers on just a $1,000 signing bonus, per Cowart. The 5-foot-9 wideout caught 59 passes for 803 yards and four touchdowns with UNC-Charlotte last season.
  • Agent Drew Rosenhaus did not rule out a holdout when discussing options for client Greg Olsen.

Panthers Sign Christian McCaffrey

The Panthers are now the first club to reach a deal with a 2017 first-round pick, as the club announced it has signed running back Christian McCaffrey. Carolina has also inked second-round offensive lineman Taylor Moton and sixth-round fullback Alex Armah.Christian McCaffrey (Vertical)

McCaffrey, the eighth overall pick in last week’s draft, should immediately factor into a Panthers offense that ranked 25th in DVOA last season. A running back by trade, McCaffrey may end up playing a good deal of receiver, especially with established veteran Jonathan Stewart still lurking in the backfield. McCaffrey should be in line for a four-year deal worth roughly $17.241MM (signing bonus of ~$10.679MM). Carolina will also hold a fifth-year option on McCaffrey for the 2021 campaign.

Moton, meanwhile, should compete for the Panthers’ starting right tackle job. Third-year pro Daryl Williams looks to be Moton’s primary competition, as Michael Oher is still dealing with concussion issues (and was recently cited for misdemeanor assault). Moton, a Western Michigan product, will earn $6.454MM over the life of his four-year contract.

In addition to signing three of their seven draft picks, the Panthers announced they’ve also agreed to terms with the following undrafted college free agents: linebacker Ben Boulware, defensive end Bryan Cox Jr., wide receiver Austin Duke, cornerback Cole Luke, and wide receiver Fred Ross.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.