CHARLOTTE – With the salary cap being as tight as it is in 2021, having younger, cheaper alternatives is going to be the preference.
So since the Panthers found some acceptable alternatives last year, they're going to stick with the savings.
On Friday, they released defensive end Stephen Weatherly and punter Michael Palardy, opening the door for some second-year players to grow into roles.
Combined with this week's release of veteran defensive tackle Kawann Short, the Panthers have carved around $16.4 million worth of space off the cap.
Teams were informed this week that the floor for the 2021 salary cap would be $180 million (up from previous guidance of $175 million). But that's still down substantially from last year's $198.2 million limit, causing teams around the league to make multiple cuts already.
Weatherly was signed as a free agent last offseason, and started the first nine games of last season before a finger injury landed him on injured reserve. The development of defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos made Weatherly's release possible, though the Panthers will continue to look for depth on the line.
Palardy spent last year on the non-football injury list after an offseason knee injury kept him from playing in 2020. That gave an opportunity to the undrafted Joseph Charlton, who took advantage of it and did so while making the rookie minimum.
The South Carolina product landed 21 of his 45 punts inside the 20-yard line, and that ranked fourth in the league last year. His 40.8-yard net average was fourth all-time in franchise history.
In a year with a declining cap, every dollar is going to count, so having young players fill roles instead of veterans benefits the bottom line.