Charles Johnson (DE)

Panthers To Cut DE Charles Johnson

Shortly after releasing Kurt Coleman, Carolina will release another veteran starter from its Super Bowl team. The Panthers are planning to cut Charles Johnson, ESPN.com’s Adam Caplan reports (on Twitter).

This rumored maneuver comes a year after the Panthers re-signed the defensive end for two years and $8MM. It will create $3.25MM in cap space. They will not incur any dead-money charges because of this transaction.

Johnson has spent all 11 of his NFL years in Charlotte. The Panthers re-signed him to a mega-extension in 2011 and kept him around on an additional agreement last season. He’ll venture into the free agent market heading into his age-32 season.

Johnson started 11 games last season, missing four due to a PED-induced suspension, but did not record a sack. It marked the first time since he was a rookie that this occurred. He has 67.5 career sacks, but over the 2015-16 seasons, only 5.5 of those occurred. Johnson hasn’t produced a season with at least five sacks since he registered 8.5 in 2014.

With the releases of Coleman and Johnson, the Panthers created more than $5MM in cap space. This will push the team’s projected total north of $25MM. These cuts will also reduce the number of defensive starters from Super Bowl 50 still under contract to four. That game marked Johnson’s most recent playoff outing. He did not suit up for the Panthers’ wild-card loss to the Saints.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Peters, Panthers, Saints

The Rams were one of only two teams to express legitimate interest in acquiring CB Marcus Peters, and while Los Angeles head coach Sean McVay cannot yet talk about Peters or the trade specifically, Terez A. Paylor of the Kansas City Star says it is no surprise that the Rams would be the team to land the former first-rounder. Although Peters is now eligible for a long-term extension and is likely to be on his best behavior anyway as a result, Paylor notes that McVay has quickly established a strong presence in LA, and he and DC Wade Phillips have full command and respect of the locker room. Paylor suggests that the Rams’ trade for Peters demonstrates their faith in their culture, and that culture, combined with the fact that they play on the West Coast — where Peters has long indicated he wants to be — made it a perfect fit.

Now let’s take a look at a few more NFC notes:

  • The Rams are hiring Holy Cross offensive coordinator Liam Coen as their assistant WRs coach, per Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports (via Twitter).
  • Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer takes a look at the Panthers‘ plans for the offseason, and he says Carolina will likely release DE Charles Johnson, though it is difficult to say whether Julius Peppers will be back or will call it a career. Person also does not expect Andrew Norwell to be back, so the Panthers will need to draft or sign a defensive end and a guard this offseason, and the hope is that whatever guard they acquire will also be capable of playing center.
  • The Saints have a few interesting calls to make with respect to their restricted free agents, as Larry Holder of the Times-Picayune observes. Willie Snead, Delvin Breaux, and Brandon Coleman are all RFAs, and although Holder does not make any specific predictions, it sounds as if Snead may be playing elsewhere in 2018, but Breaux and Coleman could be back.
  • Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press says Lions GM Bob Quinn has shown a few noticeable draft tendencies in his first several years on the job, including his apparent preferences to draft for need, to draft high-floor prospects (even if those prospects don’t have the potential to be stars), and to draft high-character players with track records at major collegiate programs. In light of that, Birkett predicts that Detroit will select Boston College DE Harold Landry in the first round of the 2018 draft.
  • We learned earlier today that it does not look like Anthony Hitchens will be back with the Cowboys.

Panthers Rumors: Hurney, Johnson, Davis

The Panthers’ offseason began on Sunday after a tough loss to the rival Saints. With an eye on the Panthers’ offseason, here’s the latest out of Carolina:

Panthers WR Damiere Byrd Placed On IR

The Panthers have clinched a playoff spot after their comeback victory over the Buccaneers in Week 16. However, the team’s receiving corps has taken another hit as Damiere Byrd has been placed on injured reserve due to a lower leg injury, according to Bryan Strickland of Panthers.com (Twitter link). The team will likely activate defensive end Charles Johnson from suspension in a corresponding move, reports Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer (Twitter link).

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Byrd, 24, was just starting to cement himself as the Panthers clear number two wide receiver before suffering the injury. In his second season in the NFL, Byrd had caught nine passes in Weeks 14 and 15, including two touchdowns. He had also solidified himself as the team’s primary kickoff return threat, having already returned one kick for a touchdown this season.

Without Byrd, head coach Ron Rivera will likely have to use running back Christian McCaffrey even more in the return game. On the offensive side of the ball, Rivera told Strickland that “it’s tough, but Kaelin Clay has stepped up.” The team also has wideouts Brenton Bersin and Mose Frazier to pick up more snaps in Byrd’s absence. In addition, the team will also get Russell Shepard from a shoulder injury next week.

Person further tweets that the Panthers will not be signing a free agent wideout to replace Byrd, instead opting to go with what the team has now going into the postseason.

The news certainly puts more pressure on the likes of Devin Funchess and Greg Olsen, who will likely see most of the targets when Cam Newton opts to throw the ball down the field. The Panthers have a chance to take the NFC South with a win and a Saints loss in Week 17.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFL Suspends Panthers DE Charles Johnson

The Panthers announced that Charles Johnson has been hit with a suspension for performance enhancing drugs. He’ll be sidelined for the next four games, as stipulated by the collective bargaining agreement. Charles Johnson (Vertical)

Johnson, 31, has spent his entire 11-year career in Carolina. This offseason, the Panthers re-upped him on a two-year, $8MM deal that could be worth as much as $9.5MM with incentives. Just a few weeks later, Johnson went under the knife for back surgery. Then-GM Dave Gettleman admitted that the team did not know the full extent of Johnson’s back injury. The injury did not cost him any games – he’s played in all eleven of the team’s contests to date – but his performance has suffered. He currently ranks as the fourth-worst qualified edge defender in the NFL, according to the numbers at Pro Football Focus. After a so-so three months, Johnson has been forced out of action during a pivotal stretch of the season.

In a statement released by the team, Johnson admitted to taking PEDs to aid in his recovery:

I accept full responsibility. I have been recovering from back surgery, dealing with the daily grind of football and mistakenly thought this could help. It was an error in judgement on my part. We have a special group here I wanted to be a part of and felt an obligation to do my part by getting back as soon as possible. I have always prided myself on being a person who does things the right way through hard work, dedication and sacrifice. I want to apologize to my team, Mr. Richardson and Panthers fans for this mistake. Regretfully I have disappointed people, but I promise to come back ready to redeem myself when this suspension is over.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Peterson, Hankins, Panthers

The latest from around the NFL:

  • Two NFL sources tell ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler (on Twitter) that they believe Adrian Peterson is still a free agent because his initial price was too high. Fowler adds that the Packers were considering having Peterson in for a visit, but have decided against it for the time being. The Packers reportedly have some interest in Peterson, but they’ll likely wait until after the draft to consider him and weigh a Peterson signing against their other options. After losing Eddie Lacy in free agency, Green Bay’s running back depth chart consists of Ty Montgomery, Don Jackson, and the recently re-signed Christine Michael.
  • Most teams around the league view Giants free agent Johnathan Hankins as primarily being a two-down player, Mike Jones of the Washington Post tweets. That could explain why his own evaluation has been so far off from what the market has been willing to offer him so far. The Dolphins have reached out to Hankins but it’s not clear if they can land him given their budgetary constraints. By the same token, no team seems to be throwing around big money to sign Hankins. He may need to go the Dontari Poe route and accept a one-year deal, but it might come at a lower salary.
  • Panthers GM Dave Gettleman indicated that team didn’t know the full extent of Charles Johnson‘s back injury when they re-signed him this offseason, Joseph Person of The Charlotte Observer tweets. Still, he indicated that wouldn’t have changed the team’s thinking. Johnson had back surgery earlier this week but is not expected to miss regular season time as a result.

Extra Points: Newton, Alonso, Rams

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is set to undergo surgery to repair a partially torn rotator cuff on his throwing shoulder, reports ESPN.com’s David Newton. The former MVP is expected to miss offseason workouts, but he should be recovered for the start of training camp. Newton originally suffered the injury during his Week 14 matchup against the Chargers.

“We developed a plan for Cam to take a period of rest, a period of rehabilitation and treatment, and then start a gradual throwing program the first part of March,” said head athletic trainer Ryan Vermillion. “Cam started his program, and the early parts of his rehab had been going well. However, as we worked to advance him into the next stage — the strengthening stage, the throwing stage — he started to have an increase in his pain level and started having pain while throwing.”

Newton isn’t the only Panthers player to be going under the knife. Defensive end Charles Johnson had back surgery earlier today, while wideout Damiere Byrd will have knee surgery later this week.

Let’s check out some other notes from around the NFL…

  • The Dolphins signed linebacker Kiko Alonso to an extension earlier today, only a few weeks after the team inked free agent linebacker Lawrence Timmons. Alonso told Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald (Twitter link) that he’s excited to play with the former Steelers defender, noting that he’d be willing to play either inside or outside linebacker.
  • New Rams cornerback Kayvon Webster believes he’ll “definitely” have a chance to start opposite Trumaine Johnson (Twitter link via ESPN.com’s Alden Gonzalez). Right now, Gonzalez believes he’ll have a leg-up over E.J. Gaines thanks to his familiarity with Wade Phillips‘ system. Webster said he would also like to contribute on special teams, depending on how much work he gets on defense.
  • Embattled running back prospect Joe Mixon is set to meet with the Chargers, tweets ESPN.com’s Jim Trotter. The Oklahoma product would undoubtedly be an intriguing fit for Los Angeles, although the team is currently rostering four running backs in Melvin Gordon, Kenneth Farrow, Andre Williams, and Kenjon Barner.

Panthers Re-Sign Charles Johnson

The Panthers have announced the re-signing of defensive end Charles Johnson, meaning yet another edge rusher won’t hit the open market. Johnson can make up to $9.5MM over two years, tweets ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The deal has a base of $8MM before factoring in the $1.5MM in incentives, Nick Underhill of The Advocate tweets.

Charles Johnson (Vertical)

The 30-year-old Johnson made it clear in December that he wanted to remain with Carolina, the only NFL team for which he has played. The Panthers selected Johnson in the third round of the 2007 draft, and he has since tallied 103 starts in 131 appearances, 67.5 sacks and 17 forced fumbles. In 13 appearances – all starts – in 2016, Johnson racked up 26 tackles, four sacks and two forced fumbles to rank as Pro Football Focus’ 25th-best edge defender among 109 qualifiers.

The Panthers and Johnson briefly separated last offseason, when the team released him in a cost-cutting move. Carolina shortly brought back Johnson on a $3MM deal, so his new contract represents a nice raise. PFR’s Dallas Robinson pegged Johnson as the eighth-best unsigned edge defender prior to Tuesday.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Mutual 2017 Interest Between Charles Johnson, Panthers

Veteran defensive end Charles Johnson would like to re-sign with the Panthers in 2017, as he tells Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer."<strong

[RELATED: Luke Kuechly Passes Concussion Protocol]

“I’d rather lose with these guys than win with anybody else,” Johnson said. “These are my guys. I know they come to work every day. I can play with them and have fun and do what I want, and also work at the same time. There’s not a lot of places where you’re going to be able to do that.”

Johnson, 30, is posting an excellent season during his 10th year with the Panthers, playing on nearly 60% of the club’s defensive snaps while registering four sacks and three forced fumbles. He’s graded as the league’s No. 23 edge defender, per Pro Football Focus, and as head coach Ron Rivera told Person, Carolina is also interested in a reunion next season.

“It’s about that steady, consistent play. I know people want to see these double-digit sack numbers. But what you see with Charles is the impact he makes throughout the game, the way he plays the game,” Rivera said. “And he’s been a tremendous leader. We’ll see how it all goes, but I’d love to have him back.”

Johnson, originally due $11MM in 2016, was released by the Panthers during the spring, but ultimately found his way back to Carolina on a one-year, $3MM pact. The Panthers could see other changes along their defensive line in 2017, as defensive tackle Kawann Short is headed for unrestricted free agency, while Star Lotulelei‘s fifth-year option is guaranteed for injury only.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: PEDs, Bosa, Tulloch, Buccaneers

Some assorted notes from around the NFL to wrap up the weekend…

  • Following a 2015 Al Jazeera America documentary that linked multiple players to PED use, the NFL is still planning on interviewing those players about the accusations, reports ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter (via Twitter). Schefter lists Steelers linebacker James Harrison and Packers linebackers Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers, although the documentary also linked free agent linebacker Mike Neal and former tight end Dustin Keller.
  • With the Chargers and rookie Joey Bosa still engaged in a stare down over the defensive end’s contract, the third-overall pick’s mother has taken to Facebook with some interesting comments. “It bums me out for him so much,” she wrote (via Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union Tribune). “Wish we pulled an Eli Manning on draft day.” Manning, of course, forced his way out of San Diego after being selected with the top pick in the 2004 draft.
  • The Eagles have a need at linebacker, leading Philly.com’s Zach Berman to agree with the team’s reported pursuit of free agent Stephen Tulloch. The 31-year-old has a natural connection to the team, as he previously played for defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. “I have a lot of respect for that guy and his production,” Schwartz said. “Whoever is out there that can improve our team, whether it’s a guy like ‘Tully’ who is unsigned or guys that are on other teams . . . we’re going to watch preseason games and be looking at the waiver wire, who might be cap casualties.”
  • Charles Johnson spent his entire career with the Panthers, so it was a bit odd for the veteran to visit the Buccaneers, his longtime division rival, when he was a free agent this offseason. In fact, the veteran admitted that his battles against the Bucs played a role in him spurning the organization to return to the Panthers. “Don’t get me wrong, because Tampa has a great organization, but it was awkward playing against them so many years,’’ Johnson told ESPN.com’s David Newton. “You really have a hate factor for them and it was just really awkward.’’