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Black and Blue Review

Black and Blue Review

Carolina Panthers News and Coverage for the Digital Age

Panthers Want Charles Johnson Back, But at a Lower Price

It wasn't Steve Smith-ish, but it wasn't a glowing endorsement.

Asked twice about defensive end Charles Johnson, Carolina Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman on Wednesday fell far short of praising the player who's racked up the second-most sacks in franchise history.

"We're still going through that evaluation," Gettleman said during his media availability at the NFL combine.

"It's hard because he got hurt. Then he's working his way back, and it's like, all right, when is he 100 percent? So we're still going through the process."

If you think you remember Gettleman using "evaluation" and "process" when talking about a Panthers' veteran before, you're right.

"Steve’s had a great career, he really has," said Gettleman two Februarys ago, foreshadowing Smith's fate. "None of us are here forever. He’s part of the evaluation process and that’s just the way it is."

But Johnson will have a choice Smith didn't. According to a league source, the Panthers want to keep Johnson around, but only if he agrees to a pay cut.

Johnson counted $20 million against the cap last season, the fourth-highest hit in the NFL. For that, he produced one sack and 12 tackles in the regular season.

To be fair, injuries kept Johnson out the entire preseason before he missed seven games with a hamstring pull in the regular year. But you can't blame Gettleman for wanting a break on Johnson's price in 2016.

Scheduled to make $10.75 million and count $15 million against the cap, the soon-to-be 30-year-old doesn't have much leverage. The Panthers would save $11 million against the cap if they released him outright. That's not their preferred option, but it's the one they'd choose if forced. 

"To me, it's not so much about what a guy makes, it's what he brings to the table. That's really what it's about," Gettleman said.

"It's about the best 53. I don't worry about that stuff. We're going to put together the best team that we can."

Even with Johnson, who was a team captain the past two seasons, the Panthers would need to beef up their pass rush this offseason. Without him, that need becomes even more dire. But as Gettleman proved with franchise left tackle Jordan Gross in 2013, if the "evaluation process" reveals a guy not worth a hefty paycheck, he's not getting it.

The ball's now in Johnson's court. 

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