Teams were allowed to start talking with agents of upcoming unrestricted free agents on Tuesday, but the Carolina Panthers also spent a good chunk of the day talking with their own guys.
As of 6 p.m., they’d settled on deals to bring back seven players who finished 2016 on the roster.
- RB Fozzy Whittaker: Added off waivers after sixth-round pick Tyler Gaffney injured his knee early in 2014’s training camp, Whittaker’s carved out a role behind Jonathan Stewart as a change-of-pace back. According to a league source, Whittaker’s soon-to-be-announced deal is worth $2.5 million over two years.
- WR Brenton Bersin: The Panthers declined to put a tender on the restricted free agent, but they did offer a one-year contract. Instead of testing the open market, Bersin accepted.
- LG Andrew Norwell: The only question regarding Norwell, a restricted free agent, was what the Panthers would spend to keep their starting left guard of the past two and a half seasons. The answer: a second-round tender worth $2.746 million. Another team could swoop in with another offer by the April 21 deadline, but if that happens, the Panthers, who have the right of first refusal, could match. If for some reason they didn’t, they’d pick up a second-round draft pick.
- C Tyler Larsen: The former landscaper impressed the Panthers when he started the final five games of 2016 for injured centers Ryan Kalil and Gino Gradkowski. The one-year tender for Larsen, an exclusive rights free agent, is expected to be $540,000.
- DE Charles Johnson: The Panthers continued to keep their defensive line intact with a two-year deal for the second-leading sacker in franchise history. Multiple reports say the deal’s worth $9.5 million, but it’s unclear how much of that is guaranteed.
- S Colin Jones: Coaches love the special teams ace, backup safety and occasional “buffalo” nickel. According to a league source, Jones, who came to Carolina in a trade with San Francisco in 2012, signed a two-year deal worth $2.4 million.
- P Michael Palardy: After never punting in an NFL-regular season game, Palardy was pretty good filling in for the injured Andy Lee over the final two months of the season. The Panthers could save $7.567 million toward the cap over the next two years if they cut ties with Lee, but it’s hard to see them giving up on a three-time Pro Bowler who cost them a fourth-round pick. Palardy’s exclusive rights tender is expected to be $540,000.
For what it’s worth, re-signing a bunch of their own guys is just one part of the Panthers’ free agency plan. They’re not allowed to sign unrestricted players from other teams until the new league year opens Thursday at 4 p.m. and you can expect them to be more active in the early part of free agency than they have the past few years.