Charles Johnson (DE)

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.’’

NFC Contract Details: Vernon, Jenkins, Mack

Here are some of the latest details on many recent agreed-upon and signed contracts from out of the NFC (all links via Aaron Wilson of the National Football Post unless otherwise indicated)…

NFC East:

  • Olivier Vernon, DE (Giants): Five years, $85MM. $52.5MM guaranteed. $20MM signing bonus. $7MM roster bonus due on fifth day of 2016 league year (Twitter links).
  • Janoris Jenkins, CB (Giants): Five years, $62.5MM. $28.8MM guaranteed. $10MM signing bonus. $1.4MM base salary in 2016 (Twitter link).
  • Brandon Brooks, G (Eagles): Five years, $40MM. $21MM guaranteed. $11MM signing bonus. $1MM base salary in 2016 and $5MM base salary in 2017 fully guaranteed (Twitter link).
  • Chase Daniel, QB (Eagles): Three years, $21MM base value. $36MM max value. $3MM signing bonus. $3MM roster bonus due on March 14. $3MM base escalators in 2017 and 2018 (Twitter link).
  • Colt McCoy, QB (Washington): Three years, $9MM base value. Third year can be voided based on playing time. $1.8MM signing bonus. $1MM annually in playing-time incentives (Twitter link).
  • Ron Brooks, CB (Eagles): Three years, $5.5MM. $1.55MM guaranteed. $750K signing bonus (Twitter link).

NFC South:

NFC North:

  • Marvin Jones, WR (Lions): Five years, $40MM. $20MM guaranteed. $8MM signing bonus (Twitter link).
  • Alex Boone, G (Vikings): Four years, $26.8MM. $10MM guaranteed. Annual $100K workout bonus (Twitter link).
  • Danny Trevathan, LB (Bears): Four years, $24.5MM. $12MM guaranteed. $5MM signing bonus. $3.5MM roster bonus due on March 14 (Twitter link).
  • Michael Griffin, S (Vikings): One year, $2.5MM. $250K signing bonus. $500K of $1.65MM base salary guaranteed. Up to $500K in playing-time incentives (Twitter links).
  • Tavon Wilson, S (Lions): Two years, $2.2MM. $500K signing bonus. Up to $500K in annual playing-time incentives (Twitter link).

NFC West:

  • Mark Barron, OLB (Rams): Five years, $45MM. $20MM guaranteed. $5MM signing bonus (Twitter link).
  • William Hayes, DE (Rams): Three years, $17.5MM. $10MM guaranteed. $4MM roster bonus due on March 13 (Twitter link).
  • Tyvon Branch, S (Cardinals): Two years, $8MM. $1MM signing bonus. $1.75MM roster bonus in 2016, $1MM roster bonus in 2017 (Twitter link).
  • Tim Barnes, C (Rams): Two years, $5.6MM. $2.5MM guaranteed. $1.25MM roster bonus due in four days. $750K roster bonus due on third day of 2017 league year guaranteed for injury, skill; becomes fully guaranteed if on roster June 17. Up to $1MM in annual playing-time incentives. $250K annual Pro Bowl incentive (all Twitter links).
  • Brian Quick, WR (Rams): One year, $1.75MM. $1.5MM guaranteed ($1.25MM bas salary, $250K roster bonus due on March 15). $2MM stats incentive (Twitter link).

Panthers Re-Sign Charles Johnson

WEDNESDAY, 7:31am: Johnson has officially signed his new one-year deal with the Panthers, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com.

TUESDAY, 7:47pm: Johnson’s one-year pact will be worth $3MM, tweets Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer, so Johnson will take a $8MM pay cut to stay in Carolina. According to Person, Johnson turned down as much as $6MM elsewhere to re-sign with the Panthers.

6:30pm: Just days after being released by the Panthers, defensive end Charles Johnson plans to return to the only team he’s ever known, as Adam Schefter of ESPN.com reports (via Twitter) that Johnson will re-sign with Carolina. It’ll be a one-yer deal, per Josina Anderson of ESPN.com (Twitter link).Charles Johnson (Vertical)

After being cut by the Panthers on March 3, Johnson quickly lined up suitors, taking visits with both the Giants and the Buccaneers. Johnson almost went to New York, as he tells Anderson (Twitter link), but admitted that his “heart was in Carolina” — indeed, Johnson tweeted a cryptic message earlier today, indicating that many observers would be surprised by where ended up.

Johnson was scheduled to earn $11MM in 2016 (between his base salary and a workout bonus), as well as account for a $15.02MM charge on the Panthers’ cap, and it’s safe to say that Johnson will earn less than that total on his new contract. Johnson was thought to have refused a pay cut before being released, so evidently he and the club have negotiated an acceptable figure since that time.

The 29-year-old Johnson has been the Panthers’ most reliable pass rusher over the last several years, recording at least 8.5 sacks in every season from 2010 to 2014. However, his 2015 campaign was derailed by a hamstring injury, which landed him on the injured reserve list with the designation to return, sidelining him for nearly half the season.

In nine regular-season games in 2015, Johnson recorded just 12 tackles and a single sack, easily making it his least productive year since his rookie campaign. He showed flashes of his old self during the team’s postseason run though, picking up three playoff sacks.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.